Mon Sep 12 12:50pm EDT
Aloofness comes naturally to Phil Jackson. He's made a career out of acting bemused, whether he's on camera on the sideline of an NBA Finals contest on national TV, or behind the scenes dealing with his players. Or bosses. Or Hall of Fame boss Jerry West, during the one (championship) season that saw West working as Los Angeles Lakers GM while Jackson coached.
According to West's soon to be released biography (as unearthed by Tim Kawakami), all it took was the 1999-00 season for Jackson to draw West's ire:
"So one of the problems I had with Phil was this," West writes. "His office was right near mine and when he would arrive in the morning, he would walk right past and never even bother to wave or duck his head in to say hello.
"He would later say that he felt the need to stake out his territory, that on top of that he was 'a wack job,' but I am sure it was more than that."
West compares Jackson's attitude to Pat Riley's reach for more power after winning titles as the Laker coach, but West suggests that Jackson's display was a colder version to experience.
"Phil and I had no relationship," West writes. "None. He didn't want me around and had absolutely no respect for me—of that, I have no doubt."
In Jackson's defense, West didn't really want Jackson around either. Though Jackson seemed perfect for the Lakers from the moment he sped away from the Chicago Bulls in 1998, West showed no interest in hiring him, and by most accounts Lakers owner Jerry Buss made the biggest push to hire Phil following a disastrous 1999 Laker season.
In West's defense, Jackson famously demanded West leave the Laker locker room following a game, using an expletive in the process (Kawakami quotes it in his excerpt). In Jackson's defense, he's long championed the idea that the players and coaching staff should be a very insular group, even to the point of excluding significant team personnel. In West's defense, Phil didn't have to be a jerk about it.
There's much more in Kawakami's column, including the time he walked out of his own surprise birthday party, so we're guessing there's much, much more in West's book. Hurry up and get to stores, Jerry West's New Book.
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