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"Dating somebody and disclosing that, that's not against team policy." — Robert Horry on why Phil Jackson didn't get the Ime Udoka treatment for dating Jeanie Buss

The Buss family was "extremely shocked", and unpleasantly so, but the fact the relationship was disclosed made all the difference.
Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss

Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss

Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka created headlines after the organization suspended him for being involved in an improper intimate and consensual relationship with a female member of the team staff. 

While Udoka's scandal may have been deemed inappropriate, it's important to point out that this isn't the first time a coach or executive has been involved in a relationship with a team member. The most prominent example is Phil Jackson (who once coached the Los Angeles Lakers) and Jeanie Buss, who were once engaged.

Udoka and Jackson might have found themselves in the same situation however, both of them handled it extremely differently — which was why the latter never had to face suspension.

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Jackson went public with his relationship.

Of course, adding context is important before comparing Udoka's situation with Jackson's. For one, Jackson wasn't in another relationship before he got involved with Buss. Second, the Zen Master disclosed his relationship to Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who once admitted that it was hard to accept that his daughter dated his team's head coach.

Still, the biggest difference is that, unlike Udoka, Jackson and Buss went public about their relationship and didn't have a third party involved. Former Los Angeles Lakers champion Robert Horry summarized why Jackson didn't go through what Udoka is facing now.

"I've had so many people come up to me and be like 'Well, why Phil didn't get kicked off the team when he was dating Jeanie Buss?' I'm like 'Because he was dating Jeanie Buss,'" Horry said on his "Big Shot Bob" Podcast. "That may not be against their team policy. I'm pretty sure if Ime was a Laker and did what he did, that still would have been against team policy… But dating somebody and disclosing that, that's not against team policy."

How the Lakers handled Jackson and Buss' relationship

In one episode of the Legacy: The true story of the Los Angeles Lakers documentary, Jeanie opened up about how her relationship with Jackson affected her power and place in the organization. As mentioned above, her family, including Jerry Buss, was extremely shocked to know about her involvement with the 11-time champion head coach, and while he didn't stop both parties from seeing each other, Buss admitted that her father no longer trusted her the same way.

Instead of running his decisions and opinions through Jeanie (who at that time already had an executive position with the Lakers), Jerry had to put a filter on what he used to say because he knew it would reach Jackson one way or another. That was the farthest challenge their relationship cost them but luckily for them, the Lakers organization respected and approved their partnership because they did their due diligence in going public and not involving a third party. 

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