Monday's news that the NBA's relocation committee had recommended that the Sacramento Kings should stay put instead of move to Seattle has strengthened Toronto’s chances of landing Phil Jackson, but the pursuit is far from a fait accompli.
Though Seattle was believed to be the coaching legend’s preferred landing spot and though Jackson has no front office experience, there will be other competitors for his services and he still could join the Kings, given how close Sacramento is to Los Angeles.
The arrival of new Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO Tim Leiweke last week, unleashed a flurry of speculation that he would make a play for his good friend Jackson to take over Toronto's front office.
Though Leiweke said he had been in touch with Jackson, he said a job offer in Toronto had not yet come up.
Barring an unexpected turn of events, it is only a matter of time though, until Jackson is formally approached.
ESPN reported late Monday that once the Sacramento move appeared to fall through, the Raptors were “emboldened” and “ramped up their pursuit” of Jackson to take over as team president.
That report said Leiweke believed that with Chris Hansen not becoming the new owner of the Kings, Jackson’s most enticing remaining option would be to join him in Toronto.
According to Cbssports.com, a source said Jackson will listen to Toronto's pitch, but, "also wants to explore options with other potential suitors."
Jackson is an NBA coaching legend, having led the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to 11 titles, but left most personnel decisions to others like Jerry Krause and Jerry West.
Leiweke is close with Jackson and his fiancee Jeanie Buss, and Leiweke said Friday that his immediate priority is getting the Raptors on the right track.
“It’s too early to speculate, I’m not going to deny that Phil and I are friends and that we had an amazing run here,” Leiweke said on a conference call.
That left the future of president/general manager Bryan Colangelo, who has an option that needs to be picked up or declined next month and head coach Dwane Casey, who had his option picked up a year ago, uncertain.
Jackson, 67, has had health issues and is also looking for a different challenge, meaning a return behind the bench is highly unlikely.
He told the San Francisco Chronicle last week that three or four teams have expressed interest in him in a non-coaching role and termed them “interesting situations that are presenting themselves.”
ESPN has long reported that Jackson is intrigued by a Pat Riley-esque role of being the commander-in-chief of a franchise, but cbs.com reported Tuesday morning that a role closer to that of West’s in Golden State, as an advisor, might be more to his liking.
Multiple league sources told cbs.com that they have doubts Jackson would land in Toronto or in Charlotte, with Michael Jordan.
Besides Toronto and Charlotte, NBA.com reported recently that David Kahn will soon be out in Minnesota, which would make the Timberwolves an option; Jackson’s former boss Doug Collins recently left Philadelphia and the Brooklyn Nets have long been after Jackson, though the preference there was to make him the head coach.