Saturday 27th August 2016,
The Hoop Doctors

Phil Jackson Won’t Coach Clippers Because It’s ‘Creepy’

Phil Jackson won’t be coaching the Los Angeles Clippers because, well, that would be creepy.

The Clippers agreed to part ways with head coach Vinny Del Negro—whose contract was up—on Tuesday, paving the way for them to hire anyone they wanted—so long as Donald Sterling was willing to actually pay them and Chris Paul approved.

Naturally, attention immediately turned to the Zen Master. Surely Sterling would pay him and Paul consent to it. He’s won 11 championships as a head coach. Who wouldn’t want him meandering up and down their sidelines?

Apparently the Clippers.

Ramona Shelburne of provided us with a list of candidates the Clippers wound likely pursue. It included the likes of Golden State Warriors assistant Mike Malone, former Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry, the recently canned Byron Scott, fresh off a stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers assistant and Jackson protege Brian Shaw and currently Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins.

Notice anyone who’s missing? That’s right, Jackson.

But that had to be a mistake. Even though he is known to prefer a front-office position, he had to make the list. He makes every list.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times penned a more extensive list, though. Surely Jackson had to be on that.

He wasn’t. Jeff Van Gundy, Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew and San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer all made the cut, but Jackson didn’t. What gives?

The Los Angeles Lakers, the other NBA team that occupies the Staples Center.

Jackson coached the Lakers to five championships and nearly returned as their head coach this past fall. Per Shelburne, it would be too “creepy” for the Clippers to pursue Jackson.

Now, I won’t come right out and say the real reason the Clippers aren’t going after Jackson is because Sterling is too cheap, but it is implied. Of course, this makes sense too.

Jackson is engaged to Jeanie Buss, of the same Buss family that owns the Lakers. Coaching in the same building, but for a different team would just be weird for P-Jax and his wifey-to-be. It would also be sort of incestuous for the Clippers.

Not that Jackson would accept the job. He probably wouldn’t. That would make for an awkward dinner. And wedding. And entire life, really. Again, he’s also set on assuming a Pat Riley-type role, where he has absolute control over a team’s roster. Coaching seems behind him at this point.

And because I like to take things to the next level, I’m also not sure if the Triangle offense would be the best fit for the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin present some interesting options as part of it, but it doesn’t call for a point guard of Paul’s skill set. What good would be paying him $100-plus million if he wasn’t going to be used to the best of his abilities?

At times like these, though, it’s common practice to reach out to Jackson. Every team does it. Whenever there’s a coaching vacancy, attention immediately shifts (even if only for a second) over to the most successful coach in NBA history. Then it immediately shifts back to the task at hand, because he usually rebuffs any offers that come his way.

The Clippers have refused to give into peer pressure and have instead chose to avoid any perils that exist when chasing Jackson. Does that make them innovative? Perhaps. Correct? I’m not sure.

When you refer to a potential union like this as “incestuous,” it’s a turn off (or so I would hope). Moving beyond that, though, and looking at all Jackson has accomplished, it’s ironic that the Clippers are actively avoiding an attempt at courting a proven winner. Only Sterling’s team could do that.

At least it’s for a good reason, though. “Creepy” coaching circumstances are rarely the foundation for championship success. This is then a smart move by the Clippers. They avoid getting burned by Jackson or have removed themselves from a dicey situation.

That Mr. Sterling’s wallet stands to benefit is merely a bonus. And probably not at all a coincidence.

Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at in addition to Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.

Watch NOW:


Like this Article? Share it!


    I have always maintained — and I sincerely submit — that Phil Jackson won’t be offered a Pat Riley-type role by NBA teams. Winning rings doesn’t necessarily denote excellent executive ability. It takes more than a “triangle offense,” which was invented not by Jackson but by one of his assistants, to succeed as a franchise president like Riley.

    Jackson should know — or should have known early on — why no team, not even the Lakers, has offered him the opportunity to run its organization.

    • Dan

      Interesting take. I’m not so sure, though. Given how much clout he still holds, I’m convinced he’ll secure that type of position at some point.

      • ARTHUR V. GAMO

        Hopefully, he does, Dan. I just wonder — indeed, I do — why, despite his avowed desire that he has declared publicly, no team has considered, much less offered, him such executive position.

        Again, hopefully, he has enough “clout” to take him where he wants to be.

        • Anklesnap

          I think Chris Hansen offered him an exec position if he had indeed won the bid for the Kings to bring them to Seattle as the Sonics. Then again it’s easy to say after the fact when you lose the bid.

        • ARTHUR V. GAMO

          Anklesnap, I’m glad you say that. . . Thanks.

  • Alfredo Rodriguez

    There’s another reason why Phil will never coach the Clips. He has a personal vendetta against Donald Sterling for how he treated his former mentor Bill Fitch. Sterling refused to pay Fitch after he was fired (a common practice he learned from his former comrade and Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis), so Fitch was forced to sue. Phil defended his mentor and had some very choice words against the Clippers owner, which ultimately led him into never trusting coaches again – that’s why he’s been ultra cheap throughout the years. But ever since the passing of his comrade Al Davis, Sterling has slowly started to change his evil ways somewhat. He knows that his life is about to end (and it was made even more so to him after losing his son Scott to drugs and his best friend Dr. Buss to cancer), and he wants to atone for his sins as basketball owner before he leaves this world.

    The offseason is gonna be really interesting because, if Donald Sterling apologizes to Phil Jackson for what he did to his former mentor, then there’s a chance that heads will roll in La-La Land. Eric Miller, soon-to-be owner of the Clippers, loves Phil Jackson. Neil Olshey, a former Clippers GM, endorsed Phil Jackson. Phil to the Clips could mean Dwight Howard defecting to Lob City and taking a possible pay cut. Kevin Garnett could waive his No-Trade clause. The possibilities are endless. Like the Lakers to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Phil Jackson could turn the Clippers into VR Troopers.

    Am I say this is gonna happen? Absolutely not because of this burnt bridge. But the NBA these days is not as scripted as it once used to be.