MLSE hires new president, reportedly eyes Phil Jackson for Raptors front office role
Just days after legendary coach Phil Jackson confirmed he has engaged in conversations with multiple NBA organizations about a possible front-office role, the Raptors have reportedly emerged as a team interested in his services.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment -- the company that oversees the Raptors, the National Hockey League's Maple Leafs and Major League Soccer's Toronto FC -- announced the hiring of former AEG executive Tim Leiweke as president and CEO on Friday. Leiweke, who was based in Los Angeles while working for AEG, told Toronto-area reporters in a conference call that he is friends with Jackson, but he wouldn't commit to having any formal conversations about a role for Jackson with the Raptors.
ESPNLA.com reported Friday the Raptors are interested in Jackson, with current general manager Bryan Colangelo's future up in the air.
Sources told ESPN.com this week that the Raptors have interest in talking with Jackson about the Pat Riley-style role he craves in charge of a team's basketball operations. ESPN.com reported last week that Jackson, after nearly two seasons in retirement, is itching to return to the NBA next season, preferably in a role similar to Riley's in Miami that allows him to oversee both the basketball department and the coaching staff or perhaps as a high-level consultant such as Jerry West in Golden State.
Colangelo has a contract option for the 2013-14 season which has not yet been picked up but which will soon require a decision. Leiweke told reporters Friday he will speak with Colangelo about his status next week.
Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle this week he's not interested in a return to coaching but he would like to help "implant the game [and] a culture" by serving in an unspecified personnel position.
"I've had some talks with people and there are some interesting situations that are presenting themselves, but I really haven't made up my mind yet what I'm going to do," said Jackson. "None of it involves coaching. ... There are three or four teams that have been interested."
Jackson said he would be interested in a developing team "where you'd have the influence in (selecting the) coaching staff and the kind of culture that goes along with it. It goes all the way down to - not down to, but includes - trainers and the people who are doing the hands-on work with players, that have to be really embedded with how you put a team together."
Jackson, 67, was linked in rumors to a return to the Lakers' bench after former coach Mike Brown was fired following a 1-4 start back in November. Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak reportedly met with Jackson before hiring Mike D'Antoni.
Jackson -- who retired in 2011 after winning 11 titles as a coach -- has said the possibilities of a return to coaching are "slim and none." That hasn't stopped his name from popping up in rumors linking him to the Nets, who fired coach Avery Johnson and appointed assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo as an interim coach in December. Over the last year, he has also been linked in rumors to the Blazers and the Kings, should they relocate to Seattle and become the Sonics, in front office roles. The Point Forward has repeatedly suggested the Raptors take a hard look at Colangelo's future with the organization, especially following the organization's midseason trade for Rudy Gay.