Los Angeles Lakers fans weren’t the only ones hoping the team would hire Phil Jackson rather than Mike D’Antoni last fall.
Jeanie Buss, chief of business operations and Jackson’s fiancee, said she was “stunned” by the late-night phone call in which General Manager Mitch Kupchak said D’Antoni was getting the gig rather than the Zen Master. In an update to her “Laker Girl,” autobiography, excerpted in the Los Angeles Times, Buss says she felt the decision, by Kupchak and her brother Jim Buss, was “a betrayal” and that she “got played.”
After we went to bed, the house phone rang at 11:30. I heard Phil pick it up and say, “Okay, alright. Okay.”
When he hung up, I asked him what that was about, and he said, “Mitch called to tell me they’ve hired D’Antoni. He said that they feel given the personnel they have that D’Antoni is a better fit. He said they know they are going to take a bit of a PR hit, but he thinks it will blow over in a month.”
“He said it will blow over in a month?” I repeated in disbelief.
I was stunned. I said to Phil, “They came to you. You were not looking for the job. I cannot believe this.” I knew Phil wasn’t going to argue with them.
“That was really odd,” he said in the quiet of our bedroom as he replayed the conversation in his mind.
In the November edition of the book, co-written with Steve Springer and first published in 2010, Buss says she didn’t understand why her brother would “pull Phil back into the mix if he wasn’t sincere about it.”
“Phil wasn’t looking for the job, and then he wasted 36 hours of his life preparing for it when they were never in a million years going to hire him anyway.
“How do you do that to your sister? How do you do that to Phil Jackson?”
Jim Buss told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne earlier this month that Jerry Buss preferred D’Antoni. The longtime Lakers owner, the father of Jim and Jeanie, died in February of cancer and since his death Jim has made basketball decisions and Jeanie business decisions.
“We did the coaching search and interviews and fed him all the information,” Jim Buss told Shelbourne. “And he said, ‘This is who I want. D’Antoni’s the man.’ Knowing that in the future we had to rebuild, he felt that Phil was not a guy to rebuild. It’s not fair to him. It was actually more of a respectful thought towards Phil.”