Cross-Court: The $7 Million-Dollar Man?


$7 million-dollars.

That’s the going rate for a coach that’s won more titles than anyone in NBA history, won the most games in Lakers history, won the most playoff games in Lakers history, and on the verge of possibly delivering another championship banner to the Lakers this June, according to Jerry Buss.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, much of the news in Los Angeles and in the NBA surrounds the possibility of Phil Jackson leaving the Lakers next season for either another team or hanging it all up because he’s become the biggest target of Buss’ bizarre economic downsizing crusade for next season. Of course, this didn’t come exactly as a shock to everyone since Buss publicly announced his intentions earlier this season. But what comes as a surprise however is how much he wants Phil to accept as his new salary to coach his Lakers.

As usual, Phil had been dancing around the issue when asked and even suggested that retirement also a tempting option no matter if he was asked to take a pay cut or not. That is until he confirmed the number that Jerry had thrown at him in their talks about his salary for next year. As we all know, Phil is a lot like Jerry in that his ego is the size of his beloved Montana.

Jackson isn’t the kind of guy who would easily give-in without at least being compensated at a level only he desires. Then again, Buss isn’t your average owner and, more importantly, has a history of making the boldest decision that’s worked out for him more often than not.

But something has to give.

By signing Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol their extensions earlier this season and adding the multi-year contracts of Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, Buss is set to pay $130 million dollars in salary for just those four players. Add to that the $21.5 million-dollars’ worth of luxury tax he has to send Commissioner David Stern this summer for going above the $69.9 salary cap.

The media has been busy at molding this idea that the reason for all of this is because of the personal tiff between Phil and Jerry over the years has matured into the form of what we’ve been hearing in Laker news this week.

True or not, I say there’s no logical value as to why Jerry is risking all the success and all the championship banners for something so ridiculously irrelevant when he’s been soaking up everything that goes along with winning 4 championships the last 10 years that Phil has given him and, better yet, charging us Laker fans the most money in the NBA for a seat to watch the Lakers play.

In my mind, that is the real issue here.

He’s sending a message to all of us Laker fans that he’s not obligated to give us a team that is readily capable of winning titles even when we’ve been budgeting our own expenditures each day, each week, and even each month just to drive ourselves in this oh-so-lovely L.A. traffic to go to Staples Center to watch and support our beloved Lakers.

I say we deserve to have the best coach available and nothing less.

Does Jerry really think that Byron Scott, Brian Shaw, or whatever coach he may have in the warehouse handle the various personalities of this team while pushing every single player to put their heart and soul for one another to win?

I don’t think so.

Come to think of it, is it our fault that part of the reason he’s in this monetary “problem” is because he over-valued certain players that even he tried to dump to the first schmuck in the waning minutes of the trade deadline in January? Is it our fault that guys like Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, and Brian Cook were brought here to put on the purple and gold? And above all, is it our fault that Phil happens to be worth every single penny of his $12 million-dollar a year salary?


So why even begin to think of depriving Phil his chance of a rare sports immortality of winning more than 10 rings and us Laker fans a chance to win as much championships with him?

If Jerry is all about winning and all about the banners that hang high and proud above the floor of Staples Center, then paying the best coach this franchise has ever seen shouldn’t even be an issue at all.

For now, this so-called standoff between Jerry and Phil has just started and nothing we’ve heard so far has any teeth to it. But expect things to go at full steam quickly over the course of the next several weeks heading into the summer.

We’ll certainly stay tuned.