Phil Jackson, Knicks President of Basketball Operations, denies that he is planning a return to the Los Angeles Lakers. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
New York Knicks president Phil Jackson has put an end to speculation that he would opt out of his contract with the team after this season and return to the Los Angeles Lakers as an executive in 2017.
The speculation is fueled by Jackson's ties to the Lakers organization. His fiancee, Jeanie Buss, is the Lakers team president and part-owner.
Jackson, who has a record 11 NBA championships as a head coach, said in an interview with ESPN's Jackie MacMullan that it was "never important" for him to return to the Lakers.
"They're moving forward in the right direction. (New Lakers head coach) Luke (Walton) has them engaged, Brian (Shaw) is an associate head coach; they have a core group of guys that will get it done. It was never important to me to go back and be a part of that," Jackson told MacMullan. "Especially not now. I have this job, this commitment."
Los Angeles executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss has said that if the Lakers (6-5) fail to make a deep playoff run this season he will step down -- adding to the Jackson-to-Lakers speculation.
Jackson, who is in his third full season with the Knicks as team president, said the opt-out clause in his contract was related to the possibility of a lockout in 2017 and not a potential return to Los Angeles.
"If (a lockout) was going to happen in December and everybody chose to walk away, there was no way I was going to sit in New York for three, four months when I didn't have a job, because (the players) aren't even allowed to show up to work," Jackson told ESPN. "So, in that case, I would go back to L.A.
"I have not entertained that (opting out of his contract). I'm looking for this Knicks team to get back into a situation where they are competitive. Do I have to win a championship before I feel I've done the job I've been asked to do, which is to bring this group back to that competitive level? No, I don't. We're starting to make progress. I like a lot of the things we are doing here. But we've got more to do."
The Knicks won just 49 games over the past two seasons and are 3-6 this year entering Monday night's home game against the Dallas Mavericks.