Returning to the Top: Looking at Phil Jackson

Kevork Djansezian

With Phil Jackson at the top of the Lakers' coaching shortlist, let us look at how the current team would fit in the dynamic he brings.

At this juncture, that the Lakers are going to hire Phil Jackson has a fairly strong aura of inevitability. In the wake of what has to be viewed as an ill-founded decision to hire Mike Brown, bringing Phil back would represent a return to the championship principles that Jim Buss seemingly moved away from in 2011 and provide a nice Hollywood ending that Phil was denied at the previous end of his coaching tenure. Of course, the situation is more nuanced than this idealized notion, but it cannot be denied that the greatest coach of all time is a free agent and by all accounts, salivating at the chance of coming in to coach one of the most talented Laker squads that has ever stepped onto a basketball court. Hearing Kobe Bryant, the biggest recipient of Phil's teaching and instruction currently on the team, gush profusely about Phil's merits only adds onto this sense that it is only a matter of time before Phil is hired.

The presence and gravitas Phil brings as a coach, however, comes along with the triangle offense, which the Lakers played with for most of the past decade. You know, the one that allowed Derek Fisher, hardly a paragon of traditional point guard skills, to masquerade as a lead guard for a good portion of his career. This is the chief problem for Phil, seeing as he has a certain Steve Nash, who is a paragon in the aforementioned regard, to integrate into a squad that already was not doing a good job of integrating him into the offense. Both the Princeton offense and the triangle are read-and-react systems that work towards making positions interchangeable and limit the influence of a straightforward pick-and-roll point guard. We obtained Nash to be Nash, a maestro of the offense who could make decisions on the fly coming off a pick that almost always turned out to be to the benefit of his team.

So the reality here is that Phil is going to have to give some ground to Nash for this to work. The triangle does have a pick-and-roll component, but it will have to be drastically expanded to incorporate Nash into the framework of the offense and not lead to the same foibles that characterized Nash's brief run in the Princeton. Phil has to find a happy medium between what he has traditionally run and the structure of the team. You build a system to fit the players, not try to forcefully fit a square peg into a round hole. To his credit, we are talking about Phil here and it would be remiss to claim that this task is beyond him. At its core, the triangle, as the Princeton was, is a system with simple concepts and at least on paper, it is not outlandish to suggest that it can be molded in such a way to give Nash the appropriate freedom he needs to run things. Lest we forget, the Princeton offense that Eddie Jordan ran in Washington had more than a sufficient pick-and-roll aspect to bring Nash into the fold; the issue was that Brown was never able to sell Nash on it or make it work on the court.

And this is where the fact that Phil is, well, Phil comes into play. A master juggler of egos and renowned for his ability to make people buy into what he was preaching, we could expect, nay should expect, him to give Nash a vision of how he can fit into a system that has usually been everything he has not. If Phil can do this, then most everything else should fit in nicely. We need no explanation for how the triangle benefits Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and anyone curious at how Dwight Howard will operate in the triangle only needs to go back to Shaquille O'Neal's glory days at the turn of the millennium. This is a team ready made for a coach of Phil's caliber to walk in and lead them to the promised land, and while Phil's mystique certainly doesn't need any more validation at this point in his career, it is hard to see a guy with his competitiveness turn down such an opportunity.

We could mention Mike D'Antoni, Jerry Sloan, and other candidates here, but really, it is going to be Phil at this point. Not that the aforementioned names are bad options, far from it. Phil is as we previously noted, the best of all time and having him at the head of a team of this level seems almost predestined. A team with huge personalities and egos to manage seems custom-made for his talents and per all the recent reports, we will bear witness to the fruit of his tutelage very soon.

Follow this author on Twitter @brosales12.

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