LOS ANGELES -- Phil Jackson is returning to the Los Angeles Lakers
following a reconciliation with the team that cut him loose last year after three NBA championships in five seasons.
Spokesman John Black said Tuesday the team has rehired Jackson, who was let go by owner Jerry Buss June 18, 2004.
A news conference was set for 5 p.m. EDT at Staples Center.
Jackson, who turns 60 in September, has had health issues in the past and underwent an angioplasty two years ago. He told ABC-TV before the opening game of the NBA Finals that he underwent a series of tests to make sure he was healthy.
Jackson agreed to a three-year contract. Terms were not announced, but it's believed he'll be earning around $10 million per year.
Jackson's dismissal a year ago set in motion a makeover of massive proportions that proved to be disastrous.
Dominant big man Shaquille O'Neal
demanded a trade and superstar Kobe Bryant
opted out of his contract to become a free agent the same day Jackson's five-year run as coach ended.
The futures of O'Neal and Bryant were decided the following month, with O'Neal being traded to Miami and Bryant staying with the Lakers.
Rudy Tomjanovich succeeded Jackson, signing a five-year, $30 million contract, but lasted barely half a season, citing health reasons when he suddenly resigned Feb. 2.
Jackson's name was mentioned as a possible replacement almost immediately despite his having written a book detailing the 2003-04 season in which he called Bryant uncoachable and made other disparaging remarks about the franchise.
Bryant's reaction to a possible return by Jackson seemed lukewarm at best during the past several months. But Bryant released a more positive statement through his agent, Rob Pelinka, shortly after the hiring was announced.
"When the Lakers began the search for a new head coach, I put my complete trust in Dr. Buss and Mitch Kupchak to select the person they thought was best for the Lakers' organization," Bryant said in the statement. "In Phil Jackson, they chose a proven winner. That is something I support."
With injuries playing a major role, the Lakers lost 19 of their last 21 games under interim coach Frank Hamblen to finish 34-48 and out of the playoffs for just the second time since 1976.
Jackson has coached nine NBA championship teams -- six with the Chicago Bulls
and in his first three years with the Lakers -- from 2000-2002. That ties him with former Boston Celtics
coach Red Auerbach for the most in league history.
Jackson also has a record 175 postseason victories and is tied for 10th on the NBA's all-time list with 830 wins in just 14 seasons -- nine with the Bulls and five with the Lakers. He has a .723 regular-season winning percentage and a .717 postseason winning percentage.
The Lakers were 285-125 in the regular season and 68-28 in the postseason under Jackson. But this figures to be his biggest challenge since the current team doesn't appear to have what it takes to return to elite status any time soon.
The Lakers are well over the salary cap, restricting their ability to bring in high-priced free-agent talent for at least two years. Their defense was abysmal last season; they had an unbalanced roster with too many small forwards; they had virtually no inside presence on either end of the court; and they were suspect at point guard.
Jeanie Buss, the owner's daughter and the Lakers' executive vice president of business operations, publicly lobbied for months for the return of Jackson, her longtime boyfriend.
She finally got her wish.
Bryant's reaction to a return by Jackson has seemed lukewarm at best. Shortly after Tomjanovich's resignation, Bryant said he would "roll with it" if Jackson returned.
Two days after the season ended, Bryant said he didn't care who was hired as coach, adding he trusted the track record of Jerry Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak.
"Whoever they bring in here, I'm going to be ready," Bryant said. "I'm just open to whoever they feel like is going to get the job done."
Buss said in early May he believed Jackson and Bryant could coexist.
"Oh, definitely. No question," Buss said. "These people want to win."
Jackson spoke to several other teams, including the New York Knicks
, but made it clear he would make a decision on the Lakers' job before giving serious consideration to anyone else.
"He was a long shot for us anyway," said a source in the Knicks' front office who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Herb Williams remains New York's coach for now, although the team has also spoken to Flip Saunders, P.J. Carlesimo, Bill Laimbeer and others. There remains a possibility that New York could pursue Detroit coach Larry Brown, who is widely expected to leave the Pistons following the conclusion of the NBA Finals.
Brown has said he wants to address a health issue after the playoffs before deciding his next move. He has already spoken with the Cleveland Cavaliers
about taking a job as team president.
Jackson's decision to rejoin the Lakers should speed up the process of filling other job openings. There are coaching vacancies in Minnesota and Portland, and Seattle coach Nate McMillan's contract expires at the end of this month. Sacramento reportedly approached Jackson about taking over the Kings.
O'Neal and Dwyane Wade
led Miami to the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to Detroit in seven games.
O'Neal is scheduled to earn $30.6 million next season, but can opt out this summer and become a free agent. He has said he wants to stay in Miami and has talked with the Heat about a contract extension.