For the most part, remaining quiet on the whole Phil Jackson/Lakers saga has been my M.O. The situation, however, looked all too familiar; like I’d seen it play out on TV before. Then it hit me. That’s because I did. If anyone in the world at this moment can feel the identical sense of “betrayal” Phil is experiencing, it’s another (former) Southern California resident: one Carlton Banks. Interestingly enough, the similarities between the duo are – if nothing else – perplexing to say the least.
1. Both were two of the greatest supporting actors of the ’90s on prime-time television. Phil with Mike and Scottie in Chicago (and later Shaq and Kobe and even later with Kobe and Paul Gasol in Los Angeles). Carlton with Will.
2. Without Phil (and Tex Winter), the Bulls probably never win those titles, altering the course of NBA history to a parallel universe that hasn’t even been discovered yet. Without Carlton, Fresh Prince loses a lot of its luster.
…and the most obvious one we’ve seen only in the past week…
3. Both fell victim to the “wink and the gun” fiasco despite being the more “qualified” candidate.
“The wink and the gun” does NOT always mean, “Hey, you’re our guy.”
What’s interesting of note about Phil is his sheer domination of the popular vote. Social media exploded at the thought of Jackson uniting with Kobe for what would have been the third time in their storied careers. Staples Center fans chanted in excitement for the return of the coach with the oversized chair. Even Phil was geekin’. So while there wasn’t a public “wink and gun,” it’s safe to assume he and Jeanie Buss shared the gesture of premature confidemce while rolling a trippy stick. Phil was happy to inherit yet another stacked team and Jeanie was ecstatic because her longtime boyfriend and family may have finally met at some sort of middle ground.
In the dead of Sunday night, however, Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and the powers that be unanimously came to the decision Mike D’Antoni would be the man to lead the Lakers back to the mountaintop, much like the California International Bank did with Will. As surprising as the news was/still is/will be for quite some time, there is precedence believe it or not. This isn’t exactly the first time executives have played hardball with Phil. Jerry Krause was the most hated man in Chicago for a while because of his handling of the Toni Kukoc/Scottie Pippen melodrama prior to the ’92 Summer Games. And both Jerrys (Reinsdorf and Krause) worshipped Tim Floyd as Phil’s heir apparent as early as 1997, damn near ending the ’90s dynasty at five titles instead of six. Krause’s public courtship even forced Phil to once respond saying, “Jerry [Krause] gets enamored of certain people. He used to be enamored of me.”
Then there’s the way that whole 2004 season went up in flames.
The press release answer leads us to believe D’Antoni is a “better fit” for this team, and maybe he is. The “real” reason, however? Maybe the thought of Jimmy Buss running back to a man he basically ran out of town in 2011, hired Mike Brown over Brian Shaw in spite of and the same guy who’s been shacking up with his sister (probably getting her high as telephone wires, too) was simply too much.
Remember, pride is a powerful drug. Buss better pray this ends up more like the Kukoc situation (more titles) than the Tim Floyd one (no rings, but LA won’t fade to oblivion in the manner Chicago did).
The only thing for certain is this.* Thanksgiving is going to be more stressful than that the dinner scene in Who Made The Potato Salad?
* – Another certainty, be sure to check The Sports Fan Journal for part two – “The Phil Jackson Terror Alert.” I’m pretty sure that’s the title.