"The one thing that's kind of always bothered me is that his last year, I wasn't able to give him my normal self because I was playing on one leg," said Bryant, who had knee problems throughout the season. "That's always kind of eaten away at me, that the last year of his career, I wasn't able to give him everything I had."
If Jackson isn't looking forward to travel, he could return at a good time. Los Angeles began a six-game homestand Friday night, and will host San Antonio on Tuesday night.
Bryant vocally backed Brown's work over the past two seasons, including his decision to install a new offense that didn't click immediately with Howard or Steve Nash. After reacting to Brown's firing with shock, the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history said he would welcome a reunion with the coach who created a nearly impossible act to follow in both Chicago and Los Angeles.
Bryant has stayed in contact with Jackson during the coach's retirement, even getting a couple of Jackson's famed book recommendations.
"A lot of it is Phil's fault," Bryant said of the struggles of the coach's successors. "He teaches guys to be thinkers. He teaches us the little nuances, the details and the intricacies of the game that just a lot of people don't know. It's no fault of their own. When it comes to basketball, he's genius-level. It's tough for anybody to step in those shoes afterward from players that were raised underneath that tutelage."
Mike D'Antoni and Nate McMillan also are thought to be candidates for the job if Jackson declines. Kupchak said the Lakers are likely to hire a veteran coach who isn't currently employed.