NBA teams want Phil Jackson. No surprise there. But not all of them are eager to hand over the keys to the franchise, preferring Phil to do his work solely from the sideline as coach.
Franchises are stepping up though, willing to at least discuss giving Phil the world. The most aggressive of those teams is reportedly the Toronto Raptors.
… sources say that the Raptors will be pursuing Jackson aggressively this week, believing that they rank as Jackson’s most attractive current option for a new career in management now that he can reunite with [CEO Maple Leafs Entertainment Tim] Leiweke.
One source close to the situation told ESPN.com that Hansen and Jackson have “hit it off,” sparking league-wide speculation that Jackson would be offered the chance to run the new Sonics in Seattle in the Pat Riley-style role he craves. But with a 12-owner committee recommending Monday that the Kings’ move to Seattle be blocked, Toronto’s seemingly long-shot odds of winning the Jackson sweepstakes would figure to have received a boost.
That’s largely because of Jackson’s longstanding friendship with Leiweke, who was introduced Friday as the new CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which oversees the NBA’s Raptors, NHL’s Maple Leafs and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer.
One source said that Leiweke’s “vision and energy” and history of shared success at Staples Center with the 11-time championship coach ensures that Jackson will give the pitch strong consideration despite skepticism around the league about his willingness to relocate to Canada.
Amid its pursuit of Jackson in the wake of Leiweke’s arrival, Raptors president Bryan Colangelo is scheduled to meet with the MLSE board next week in hopes of convincing his bosses to pick up the option year on his contract. The 2013-14 option in coach Dwane Casey’s contract was picked up by Colangelo before this season, but Leiweke’s arrival has thrown both of their futures into some immediate doubt.
In an interview last week with the San Francisco Chronicle, Jackson said “three or four teams” have already expressed interest and that “none of it involves coaching.”
One thing that we’ve mentioned before that can’t be overlooked is the presumed desire for Phil to be in a cosmopolitan city. His history of success (and the spoils that come with it) in L.A., Chicago and New York likely kill talks with teams like Cleveland dead in the water before they even get going. Toronto is an amazing basketball city and is closer to look and feel to NYC than it is to Cleveland, Charlotte, Detroit or any other franchise that may come calling and likely has an edge if they’re willing to give him what he wants.
Could you see Phil in Toronto?
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