Phil Jackson is open to returning to the NBA sidelines, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the Hall of Fame coach's thinking.
With the Los Angeles Lakers relieving Mike Brown of his coaching duties Friday morning due to a 1-4 start, the door is open for Jackson to return to the Lakers for his third stint as coach of the league's glamour franchise.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters Friday afternoon that the team's brain trust -- Kupchak along with Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss -- have already put together a list of potential replacements for interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff. Among the "four or five" names on that short list is Jackson, according to a league source.
Jackson had not been contacted by the team as of Friday afternoon, however.
The all-time winningest head coach in NBA championship history, with 11 titles to his name, has not coached since the 2010-11 season, when he walked away from the game after the Lakers were swept out of the second round of the playoffs.
He took last season off, in part to avoid the frustration associated with a lockout-shortened season and in part to improve his health. Jackson, 67, is "getting better and better" according to a source familiar with the rehabilitation process for Jackson, who underwent knee replacement surgery in March.
"He's been in tune with the Lakers' season and has kept an eye on the league," a source close to Jackson told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Jackson's presence has never fully left the Lakers. He still frequently stops by the Lakers practice facility to visit his longtime girlfriend, Jeanie Buss. Kobe Bryant often quotes Jackson maxims during news conferences. Even Jackson's two elevated chairs -- one he used at home practices and one the team took on the road for away games -- are still propped up against a wall by the entrance to the training room at the practice facility.
Should Jackson return to the Lakers, the feeling is from league sources that he would be interested in bringing along an assistant coach or associate head coach that he could groom to be his successor. Jackson feels like he owes much of his success to his longtime consultant Tex Winter, the architect of the Triangle offense, and he would like to pay it forward to another young coach. When Jackson spoke to Portland and Orlando about their head coaching vacancies this past offseason, a mentor arrangement was discussed in both situations, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
The coaching search is expected to be a swift one.
"It's not going to be a long process; that's for damn sure," a source told ESPNLosAngeles.com."But they're going to do their due diligence."
Added Kupchak: "The sooner the better. We don't have a timetable, quite frankly, because this happened so quickly."
While Jackson values the process of a going through a full training camp when taking over a team, a source close to the coach said that could be mitigated with the current Lakers' team because Jackson would be joining it with pre-existing familiarity with the roster, namely Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, who he coached to a championship in 2010.
Jackson is currently in Los Angeles and was seen sporting a mustache, the same facial hair look he went with when the Lakers first hired him in 1999, at a recent dinner.
Plus Magic going in on the Brown hiring and the frustrations of this young season.http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8612087