Phil Jackson and longtime girlfriend Jeanie Buss broke up in 2016 after a four-year engagement. The couple announced the news via a joint statement citing the “geographic distance” as a major reason for the decision.
“With mutual love and respect, we have decided to end our engagement,” the former couple said, per ESPN. “With the nature of our professional obligations and the geographic distance between us, sustaining the relationship has been difficult. We have shared many wonderful moments through the years, and we expect to remain supportive of each other.”
According to ESPN, the couple started dating in 1999 when Jackson was coaching the Lakers and became engaged over the Christmas holiday in 2012. At the time, Jackson was the Knicks president, while Buss was running the Lakers. Buss later admitted that the breakup was trying in an emotional interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2017.
“There’s no crying in basketball!” Buss told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s been hard for him there [with the Knicks]. Now, it’s like, he would have been the pillar that I could count on.”
Both Jackson & Buss Have Spoken Fondly of Their Relationship
Jackson admitted that the scrutiny across the NBA did not help their relationship. The legendary coach cited the distance as the main factor for the breakup.
“You know the league has never been very amenable, happy about our relationship,” Jackson said, per Los Angeles Times. “There’s this … feeling that there could be collusion between those two franchises. So that was something that was difficult for us. It’s not that reason [why the relationship ended]- I think distance is the biggest reason.”
Buss noted she felt like she became the unofficial Lakers team mom when she was dating Jackson, and he was still coaching in Los Angeles.
“He and I worked well together,” Buss noted to ESPN W. “During that time, the 12 or so years that he coached the Lakers, I really got into the role of team mom, being the coach’s wife. I got to see another side of basketball that I hadn’t seen — that what Phil tries to create is a family.”
Jackson Has Been Married Twice With the Most Recent Marriage to June Jackson Ending in 2000
Prior to dating Buss, Jackson had been married two times with the most recent marriage to June Jackson ending in 2000. Jackson filed for divorce in August 2019 just before the couple celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, per Los Angeles Times. The couple had four children together: Chelsea, Brooke, Ben and Charlie. Jackson cited his desire to get back into coaching as one of the deciding factors for their relationship ending.
“Everything seemingly came to a stop [when he quit the Bulls]–the kids graduated from high school, all the kids moved out of the house,” Jackson explained to Los Angeles Times. “There was a serious opportunity for my wife and I to kind of come to terms with the next move. And after spending a year away from it, I chose to come back to basketball. And I did it alone.”
According to Basketball: A Biographical Dictionary, Jackson married Maxine Jackson in 1967 which was his NBA rookie season with the Knicks, but they later divorced in 1972. The couple had one daughter together named Elizabeth.