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Phil Jackson discusses "Journey to the Ring"

October 28, 2010 |  7:26 pm

6a00d8341c506253ef01348865717a970c-320wiThree months ago, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson seriously considered retiring.

He still loved the game, but concerns over his health, fatigue and the constant travel surrounding an NBA season seemed to be wearing on him. Positive feedback regarding a series of medical tests and a week at his lakeside home in Montana, however, proved enough to make him feel rejuvenated and commit to another season. In fact, Jackson felt so energized that he was willing to collaborate on a photography book commemorating the Lakers' 2010 NBA championship with NBA Entertainment senior photographer Andrew Bernstein. Jackson's witty and insightful captions to photos Bernstein took from the beginning of training camp through the victory parade make "Journey to the Ring," scheduled for a Nov. 10 release, a quality read. I recently highlighted Bernstein's thoughts on the overall concept. Now it's time to feature the thoughts of Jackson, who recently joined Bernstein at the California Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey to promote the book.

Phil Jackson regarding the book:

It was a process that I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do given the immense import the last few seasons had on me, and not knowing whether I would come back or not. Somewhere in July when I determined I was game for another year, it seemed fitting for this to be a project for me in the summer up in Montana. ... I was part of a project called "Take it All" back in '69 or '70 championship season in New York with the Knicks. Andy approached me on that basis saying he really enjoyed that book when he was a young photographer. George Kalinsky was the photographer. I had about four or five photographs in the book. I was an amateur photographer at the time. And I was on the sideline recovering from spinal fusion that season so it was something I had done before and I felt comfortable doing it. But I didn't know the immensity of this project. It was a lot of photographs and a lot of text and I think it turned out to be a really nice project for our fans and hopefully basketball fans around the country.

What were your favorite pictures in this book?

I think they were the pictures behind the scenes. Andy has a knack of capturing the importance and emotion of the situation. Some of them were prior to a game. I think one of them was prior to the national anthem in Boston at the [TD] Garden where the players [are standing]. Andy's on the floor and he's taking a picture of them. It shows you the size of these players in the immense arena. There's another one on Thanksgiving where I'm carving a turkey and my daughter is helping me in the kitchen. We enjoyed Thanksgiving. That's a personal one I enjoy. I think the celebration at the end carried a lot of weight with me too.

6a00d8341c506253ef0133f544c557970b-600wi-1On his Game 7 photo:

Game 7s are obviously something in which emotion is a very big factor with the players. So when I talked to the team before a game, it's about getting back down to basics. It's such a high to play in a game like that that sometimes you can have a sleepless night before the game in anticipation of the excitement and the adrenaline that flows through your body. You saw it in Kobe's performance that night. He wanted the ring so bad. I tried to bring them into a real calm situation where they remembered to breathe through the situation and continue to use their breath to get centered again so they could go back and repeat the performance.

He knows. Andy knows I give him a look and he disappears. There are times that are public and there are times that are private because there's a lot of ground to cover after a ball game. Sometimes disappointment, sometimes elation. There's some private moments there.

On the appeal of black and white photography:

I think color's spectacular in a way that sometimes you really lose what's the essence of the picture. I think black and white gives you those shades of gray all the way through black and back to white that gives depth to the photograph. There's some essence to black and white and I think some of it is our photographic memories. ... It seems to take on a surreal nature to it sometimes when it's in black and white.

On writing the captions:

Some I had to track. I had to track some of the memories and when it got back to dating some of the photography so I knew exactly when it was, I had no problem at all. The images spoke for themselves. Most of them, and I would say 95% of them, I knew the emotion of the moment. I knew what was going on and it helped me relive some of the season. I think that's foresight for some of the people who may want to buy this book. It lets fans relive some of these moments. To remember this from a year ago is kind of spectacular.

On the journey:

It's a process that I've always compared to a school year. You start out in September and you finish up in June, then you've been successful. It's an ongoing thing where literally these guys commit 200 something days. It could be 180. It could be 260, something like that or 240, whatever the days are that go into that entire season that they have to give their life to. I'm in charge of saying what time that day begins and what we're going to do and how many meetings we're going to have and what kind of practice we'll have and what the depth of it is. It's a process that for me I've had great fortune in looking at seasons as something of a long haul where it's going to be an eighth-month or seven-and-a-half month project. But in reality, you still have to give import to this opening game or this next game next week or this preseason game. Looking at the pictures brought back memories of the Christmas game against Cleveland and those fingers that went down on the court, those things that I thought were really memorable features of games like that. I think that's the fun of it.

On if he'll do another book:

I've given up photography basically. Now that it's become digital, I'm not much of a photographer. Maybe it's not being able to bleed pictures, it's not as much fun. Also there's the dark room at one time so there's the whole chemical thing going on. I think there's going to be another book, but I doubt there's going to be a photography book.

--Mark Medina

All photos by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images