Whether Phil had the fire in his belly is still a fair question. What I'm getting from this as well as Phil's own words is that Phil wasn't exactly gung-ho about returning. His context was more like "oh gee if they'll throw enough money at me, I suppose I'll take the job after all."
Here's the thing: a team doesn't lose 16 of its last 18 games without the coach getting into some trouble with management. Everyone knows that. If Phil was living in LA and watching the Lakers closely, he had to know Brown was on the hot seat. Phil's too smart to be stupid about something like that, he had to be thinking what if they fire Brown, would I want that job again? If he had decided he really wanted the job, he should have said hey I want the job, I want to coach Howard, call my agent at that first meeting. And Mitch would have said are you sure? Last time we talked you weren't feeling like that. And they would have hashed it out.
But Phil's reaction was a lukewarm "let me think about that; I'll get back to you Monday" ... ... ... ... that response isn't exactly going to inspire Jimmy and Mitch let alone Jerry. So of course Mitch will tell Phil, I got a job to do, I got other candidates, I'm gonna talk to them.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.