Posted by Scott Howard-Cooper
PHOENIX – Phil Jackson, clearly loving conjecture that he could leave the Lakers when his contract expires after the season, ruled out a return to Chicago but all but encouraged continued speculation he could end up with the Nets or Cavaliers as a coaching free agent.
Addressing what has become a predictable flurry of reports that teams will try to lure him away at a time the Lakers will be expecting him to take a pay cut from the $12-million salary of 2009-10, Jackson declined several chances Tuesday to reiterate previous statements that he will either be working in Los Angeles next season or be retired. Asked point blank whether he can still say it will be one of those two outcomes, he responded, “I’ll leave it open and just say as of now I have not made up my mind about coaching or not coaching next year.”
More of his typical playful banter with the media or not, he obviously loved the chance to fan the rumors that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, the new Nets owner, will shovel money at Jackson to bring the former New Jersey player and assistant coach back.
“I’d like to have a vodka with him at some point,” Jackson said at US Airways Center before Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. “He seems like a very interesting young man.”
He did, however, deny reports that teams have made back-channel approaches or any other contact with a Jackson intermediary. He also flatly dismissed any chance of a reunion with the Bulls.
“I have no, at all, desire to go back to Chicago and coach the Bulls,” Jackson said.
Asked why he was being so cagey when he could erase the speculation on the spot, he said: “I’ve always had problems committing.”