Phil Jackson will listen to Toronto Raptors’ pitch to advise on basketball operations

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson leaves the court at the end of game four against the Dallas Mavericks for the second round of the 2011 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center. The Mavs beat the Lakers 122-86. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Could Phil Jackson be headed north of the border to help lead the Toronto Raptors’ efforts to get back to NBA respectability? (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

According to CBS Sports, 11-time world champion coach Phil Jackson will listen to the Toronto Raptors’ pitch to join the franchise in a leading role in their basketball operations. The fact that he will listen does not guarantee that the 67-year old Jackson will be headed to the Raptors. He reportedly wants to keep his options open as he explores front office positions for the first time following his long and illustrious playing and coaching careers in the NBA.

Speculation has ramped up that Jackson would entertain overtures from Toronto after Tim Leiweke, former CEO of AEG — which owns the Los Angeles Kings and Staples Center — was hired as president and CEO of the Raptors’ parent company, Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment. Leiweke was the head of AEG for the entirety of Jackson’s coaching days with the Lakers.

Jackson, 67, is not actively seeking a return to the NBA as a coach, but rather would covet a leading role in shaping a franchise from the coaching staff to personnel decisions. According to the person familiar with Jackson’s plans, he is keeping his options open but seems to prefer a role similar to Jerry West’s advisory role with the Golden State Warriors over a team presidency in the Pat Riley mold. …

The key component of a potential Jackson return would be the ability to hire a head coach who would implement his vision. With three head coaching jobs currently open — Charlotte, Philadelphia and Detroit — and with several more potentially becoming vacant in the coming weeks, there is no shortage of opportunities for Jackson to mold a team’s culture.

Without a doubt, everything Jackson has touched over his time in the league has turned to gold. Besides Toronto, he could join forces with Michael Jordan in Charlotte, but the Bobcats team, like Toronto, needs quite a bit of work.

If he wants to stay in the sunny Southern California region and help build a franchise that already has talent on board, he could wind up helping the Clippers try to hang banners in the same building where his Lakers play, the Staples Center.

We do not know were Jackson will wind up — or if he will even return to the NBA at all — but if he does, his legacy will once again be on the line.

Would he choose to risk that in a place where wins might be hard to come by?

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