Coach Phil Jackson and the Chicago Bulls met only briefly in what his agent called the "last round" of contract negotiations, prompting speculation that Jackson would be out just days after winning his fourth NBA title.
The Bulls planned an announcement today to say that Jackson has a new contract, that another coach would be hired or that negotiations with Jackson were continuing.WMAQ-AM reported today that Jackson apparently was on his way out.
Jackson's agent, Todd Musburger, said that by meeting Wednesday with team owner Jerry Reinsdorf, "we do expect to bring it to a close one way or another."
He said he was not optimistic because the Bulls "give us the impression that they want to move in a different direction."
Bulls star Michael Jordan, whose contract also has expired, has said he won't return if Jackson doesn't. Jordan, however, also said he would never return to basketball after retiring in 1993 but did. Dennis Rodman, the team's other high-profile free agent, also said he wants to play only for Jackson.
Jackson, 50, led the Bulls to a league-record 72 victories this season, his seventh as coach. He owns the best regular-season winning percentage in NBA history at .721 (414-160) and the best playoff mark ever at .723 (81-31). This season's championship follows three straight titles from 1991-93.
Jackson's base salary was $866,000 this season, in the middle of the pack among NBA coaches' salaries. The Bulls had offered him about $1.65 million for next season, but he wanted closer to the $3 million annual salary the New Jersey Nets will be paying new coach John Calipari.
Because Chicago's season lasted until Sunday, when the Bulls beat Seattle in the sixth game of the NBA Finals to win the title, all other head coaching jobs have been filled. So Jackson said his only other option was taking a year off and waiting for future openings.