Jackson not willing to take big pay cut?

I wrote earlier today about Jackson’s willingness to field questions about his future in the middle of the Western Conference Finals, and now CBSSports is reporting that a person close to Jackson believes that the coach would be unwilling to take a major pay cut to stay with the Lakers.

While Jackson reiterated his hunch Tuesday that there’s a 90 percent chance he’ll either be coaching the Lakers next season or retiring, a person with close ties to Jackson told CBSSports.com that it’s too early to set odds. If Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss insists on a massive pay cut, the person said, Jackson would not return. Published reports have indicated that Buss is seeking to pay Jackson $5 million next season, a pay cut of $7 million.

The source close to Jackson indicated that the question of how much Jackson’s pay would be reduced is, to some degree, semantics. Given that he is close to retirement age, a significant portion of Jackson’s salary could be deferred in the form of retirement benefits that he would see without penalty in two years.

Another person with knowledge of Jackson’s situation said it would be difficult to imagine him leaving the Lakers with Kobe Bryant in the prime of his career and having just signed a three-year extension. The person equated it to overtures that frequently came Jackson’s way when he coached Michael Jordan in Chicago, saying Jackson never would’ve left Jordan in his prime, either.

But one of those sources said circumstances could change with the possibility of Jackson becoming bait to lure LeBron James to the Bulls, who have maximum salary-cap space to sign him and a quality roster that Jackson views favorably. The person said the Jackson/LeBron situation was plausible, considering Jackson would have the chance to complete a potentially irresistible trifecta – coaching Jordan and Bryant, and then capping his career with James.

The bit about the “irresistible trifecta” is interesting. Jackson has been fortunate in that he has been in a position to coach some of the league’s greatest players, but if he were able to join forces with LeBron and win his 11th (or 12th) NBA title, it would certainly cap what has already been a remarkable career. Yes, he has been fortunate in the quality of player that he has coached, but it takes more than great players to win championships, and Jackson’s ability to manage massive egos and get 12 players pointed in the same direction is, for lack of a better word, uncanny.

He’s not going to grind out 50+ wins with an inferior roster like Jerry Sloan does year in and year out, but if Jackson has the most talented roster, he’s a good bet to be the last coach standing at the end of the postseason.

And that’s probably worth $12 million a season.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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