Phil Jackson remains committed to the Knicks, and there is no plan for him to bolt and rejoin the Lakers, his fiancée, Jeannie Buss, said Tuesday morning.
The ongoing speculation has been that Jackson won’t fulfill his contract with the Knicks and could return to the franchise he coached to five NBA championships. Jackson signed a five-year deal with the Knicks to be team president in March 2014 and has an opt-out clause after next season. But Buss, the Lakers’ president and co-owner, said Jackson’s “mission” is to build the Knicks into a championship contender.
“He’s committed to New York for many years,” Buss said on ESPN Radio. “He’s building something there. He has a mission, he’s on that journey to get the team back to where he believes it can be and it will be. He’s a former Knick. He loves New York, he loves the fans. He wants to make them proud.”
In Jackson’s first two seasons, the Knicks went 49-115, including a franchise-worst 17-65 record in 2014-15.
The Knicks are close to naming a coach, the third under Jackson. An announcement is expected this week that Jeff Hornacek has been hired. He will replace Kurt Rambis, who took over in midseason for Derek Fisher, Jackson’s first hire.
The Lakers hired former Jackson player Luke Walton to be their coach. Jackson spoke to Walton before he took the Lakers’ job, but he said he never offered him the Knicks’ position.
Jackson has gone on record saying that general manager Steve Mills will be running the organization in the near future. But Buss reiterated a return to the Lakers isn’t in Jackson’s future.
“In terms of the Lakers, we have a front office,” she said. “They’re putting together a team. They have a vision. I’m excited to see what the future holds for us. So, to answer your question, no, there’s no plans for Phil to come back here.”