Lakers Now

Round-the-Clock Purple and Gold

« Previous Post | Lakers Now Home | Next Post »

Phil Jackson downplays sentiments regarding retirement


The comfy chair, the vibrant smile, the yellow shirt and an aura of satisfaction all provided a fitting backdrop to what made Lakers Coach Phil Jackson appear so relaxed last June during his exit interview.

He was only one week removed from winning his 11th championship and his body language suggested he was ready to bask in the glory. But then Jackson spoke: "I'm leaning toward retiring. But I have not made up my mind."

For the next 21 minutes he spoke at great length as to what was making him lean toward that direction, namely exhaustion and health. The vibe gave a sense of finality until a reporter brought up that Jackson would have the chance for his fourth three-peat should he return in the 2010-11 season. That's when Jackson's eyes lit up. "That's ridiculous," he said, nearly suggesting that dangling carrot would be too tempting not to pass up.

After two weeks of spending time at his lakeside home in Montana and undergoing a series of medical tests, Jackson's words in a statement conveyed the same sort of giddiness a kid displays on his first day of school. "It’ll be the last stand for me," he said, "and I hope a grand one.” Publishers and movie directors didn't need to look any further for the perfect title describing the Lakers' 2010-11 season. It'd be all too fitting, the Lakers rallying together to win a championship in Jackson's honor. The only problem: Jackson wants no part of that storyline.

"We haven't gotten into that at all. This is something we'll digest in the course of the playoffs because it's imminent. It's the elephant in the living room or bedroom, depending where you want to put that elephant," Jackson said, drawing a few laughs from reporters. "It's something we have to acknowledge and go through it, but it's not something about win one for the Gipper or win one for Phil."

That's too bad because Lakers co-captains Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher have followed that mantra. They have their own legacies to fulfill, of course. A sixth ring would place Bryant in a tie with Michael Jordan and spark more debate and comparisons between the two players. A sixth ring to Fisher would further cement his legacy as a clutch playoff performer and team leader despite lacking superstar qualities. But their motivation consists of multiple layers. Both Bryant and Fisher frequently called and texted Jackson last year and pleaded with him to come back, partly in hopes they could add another Larry O'Brien Trophy to Jackson's collection.

"I've thought about it probably more than others because of the relationship he and I have," Bryant said Friday at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. "I thought about it, sure. You have a responsibility to try to make his last season, make him go out the way he should go out, and that's on top."

That's surely Jackson's goal, but he's demonstrated this season a reluctance to wax sentimental about his final season. Two weeks ago, he gathered together with the Lakers' traveling beat writers at a Portland hotel where they talked over drinks for more than 80 minutes, with plenty of the conversation centering on his impending retirement and storied coaching career. But that gathering served a purpose in preempting, or at least minimizing, questions about his retirement during the Lakers' playoff run and giving the writers who cover him on an everyday basis enough material and background to know he's adamant about ending his coaching career once the postseason ends.

"It's one of the undertalked-about stories in the NBA this year that we are losing the most successful head coach that has ever coached in any sport," ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said. "He and John Wooden had periods of domination. You don't get too many things that can never be duplicated, but I feel confident in saying this will never, ever be duplicated. If I were the Lakers, I would treat this as if it was Kobe Bryant retiring in his prime and I would do everything in my power to try to get him to reconsider. Same thing with Phil Jackson. Phil Jackson is still in his prime and still at the top of his game."

It appears behind the scenes that the Lakers are hoping this proves to be another instance where Jackson can't pass up the chance to win yet another championship. Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears reported the Buss family is trying to convince Jackson to return in what could be a less taxing lockout-shorten season. Likewise, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said during the 2010 offseason that he hopes Jackson reconsiders. And others, such as assistant coach Frank Hamblen and forward Luke Walton, say they will ask him to delay retirement once the season ends. So it appears at least some of the others will make the effort Van Gundy argued they should make.

But as far as why Jackson's last season has been underreported? Part of that is Jackson's own doing. He has largely refused this season to talk about retirement or his coaching career when reporters asked him about it. For example, when asked what he remembers about his first NBA championship in 1991, Jackson simply said, "I had a lot of hair back then." During his news conference on Thursday, he almost suggested coaching in what would be known as his last season has worked against him, saying half-jokingly that unnamed players have tuned him out knowing the ramifications in disobeying him won't affect them in future seasons.

"They've treated me like a lame-duck administrator," Jackson said. "By not using what Ron [Artest] terms is 'mind control,' not letting me control their minds when they've gone through some errant journeys on the floor or irrational behavior I'm not appreciative of."

Lakers power forward Pau Gasol didn't really buy that notion, believing Jackson "likes to play games with anybody. That's the way he lives and has fun." Fair point. Jackson spent plenty of Thursday's news conference expressing disappointment about the Lakers' five-game losing streak and two subpar efforts against San Antonio and Sacramento after the team's 17-1 mark following the All-Star break, criticized the team's failure to get the No. 1 seeding and expressed uncertainty on whether the Lakers have the proper hunger level entering their first-round matchup beginning Sunday against New Orleans. On Friday, Jackson rang a different tune, blaming the Lakers' inconsistency on overwhelming fatigue that's taxed a veteran championship team that's appeared in three consecutive NBA Finals. 

Perhaps that is Jackson's whole point, making the Lakers feel more empowered in winning a championship because of their own will. Jeanie Buss, the Lakers' executive vice president and Jackson's longtime girlfriend, observed he often goes up to her office at the beginning of the day to pull up the blinds so that the windows showing the Lakers' 16 championship trophies appear in clear view upon entering the Lakers' practice court. "He always wants the players to see the trophies and be reminded what that goal is," Buss said earlier this season.

But the message points to that tangible reward itself rather than making Jackson the center of the drive to complete another three-peat. Deep down, Jackson surely feels appreciative that some of his players are using his last season as motivation to keep pushing for a three-peat, a point Gasol conceded the team has occasionally addressed during inconsistent stretches.  Never is Jackson present during those times. He's maintained he's put off thinking about what his retirement plans entail and insists on thinking in the present moment. It's a perfect Zen message the Lakers can follow as the postseason begins.

Said Jackson: "I'm looking forward to go to this thing giving every bit of energy I have right into going to the final part."

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson plans to retire after this season, but ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy argues the Lakers should do everything they can to convince him to stay. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (18)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Here's my musical vision of how I picture the Lakers running the triangle to perfection (or as close to perfect as possible like the 2001 championship run) throughout this playoff run:

Jon Faddis




It truly is Phil's Groove and the Lakers Move!




I tremendously respect Coach Phil Jackson's basketball acumen and ability to strategize. However, I will certainly not miss his tortured use of the English language, which he and co-Captain Derek Fisher abuse and misuse on a daily basis.

So long, Phil, it's been good to know ya.

does anyone know that is real name is phillis?

That's an interesting take on Phil's departure MM. Probably the most thorough I've read, if not the most inciteful.

Coach Jackson is an interesting guy. He has never been your average coach. He's nothing like the ones I grew up with. None of mine ever experimented with LSD, naked on the beach at Malibu, with a gorgeous model in the middle of the night.

I personally do not like his way of motivating players, by exposing their faults in public. Its his version of Hollywood. The same way a director reaches down to get the most from the actors. Humiliating them in front of others, if necessessary to help reach their potential.

Yes, we have a strange one. Certainly he fits in better here than he ever did in Chicago. But he's our Phil. And that makes him even more special to us.

Fatty is on the road today. You all have a great Lakers day. I'll see you tomorrow.

When Phil is gone, it will not be the same. It just will not. I hope if Kurt Rambis is fired, then we bring him back as a defensive coach. I know people keep saying Brian Shaw, but how about Kobe as a player/coach? I really believe that he is intelligent enough to do it, and has the unbelievable will to win the way Russell did. I know this probably won't happen, but it would be something if it did, wouldn't it?

"but how about Kobe as a player/coach? TNTLakerFan"

The NBA has outlawed that years ago. No more Bill Russell's.

@TNT – Like Nuggets said. The NBA CBA doesn’t allow for player-coaches. Otherwise teams could use it to circumvent the salary cap.

@GDUB – I was only up on a few cuts from Mandrill…so yep I slept on them some. That was funky. I’ll have to check them out some more.

@Tri – Enjoyed that Hank Mobley. Nice.

Kobe is climbing the leaderboard in playoff stats:

6th place in games played (one behind DFish). Will past Pippen this postseason.
5th place in minutes played.
4th place in FG’s made.
2nd place in 3pts made.
4th place in Free Throws made. Only 22 behind 3rd place (Jerry West).
11th place in assist. Only 97 behind 5th place. (Steve Nash).
8th place in steals. Only 18 away from 5th place. (Larry Bird).
4th place in turnovers. Only 20 away from 3rd place. (Scottie Pippen).
4th place in points scored. Only 196 points away from 3rd place. (Shaq)

LakerTom, in case you're up early this morning, I'd like to know where will u have ur breakfast tomorrow? Haha, I'm now an intruder on ur private time. Well, if you want to meet, let's have brunch or coffee break at Lawry's @1011 S. Figueroa walking distance to Staples bet/ 8:30 - 9 AM. Everyone is invited here on a dutch treat basis as long as we don't talk of basketball or get into heated argument over cup of coffee. huh!

Fatty, Phil Jackson is an enigma but he's one of the best gift given to us by Jeanie Buss. I wonder whether he would have re-signed 2nd and 3rd time with the Lakers if it were not for JB. He is the ultimate Kobe stopper/motivator. Can u imagined what Kobe would have been without Phil's guidance? With Brian S and Kurt R. I like them both as players and asst. coaches but as head coach of a high profiled team like the Lakers, it would only hasten their demise similar to Peter's principle. It means "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence". Lakers should find dynamic individual with laden talents that represents Hollywood Los Angeles not just anybody who is available like a Tom, Dick and Harry. After all, it takes months before an American Idol search is found and goes through rigorous elimination, I believe that is how we should treat this matter. He will be coaching the aging Kobe & Co. and prepare as well for the post Kobe era. Look what happened to Randy Pfund when he took over Pat Riley and he was a great asst. during the Showtime era. The same with broadcasters both radio, tv and internet, let's continue looking for the best and we already have a model of what we call the best i.e. the golden voice. I'm sure there is that young man is just around waiting to be tapped who is a better version of the golden voice.

I wonder how long will this post last, as Vman said, good for few minutes only on a non-game day. MM, can u limit your threads to four and just combined the news/comments whatever you could think of during the daylight hours. It is not the quantity but the quality that would measure your journalistic pursuits in the future. I am sorry to say, right now I consider u as a great blogger induced in post baiting quagmire. Look at Chick, he could have been a multi-millionaire broadcaster in the 90's but he chose to put quality in his broadcasting career against all odds from his supervisors and competition. In the end, they all surrendered. He was recruited to broadcast basketball in the Olympics.

As soon I hit post, there is already a new post about Dara. What can we say about Dara, MM? I only know Paula Abdul and stopped my curios after that.

Edwin - I understand your concerns, but I can't put a quota on a website. This is a website so when there's news, I have an obligation to post news. With more news being generated from playoff coverage, it's inevitable that there will be more posts. The combining the news into one post is understandable to a degree, which is why I pushed management to combine the game updates to one post because everything was getting lost in the shuffle. An ongoing news story, which you saw in the reaction to the Kobe incident this week, is a tad different because our data reports show readers found it easier to find new developments through Google search among other things with separate posts. Simply providing an update to an ongoing story can get lost in that if a reader is searching the right keywords. In cases like yesterday, I combined all the "news" from practice in one separate post which was all the injury updates.

I do agree with your sentiment about making sure that quantity doesn't override quality. As with any writer, I'm always extremely self-critical of my work. But I've never "rushed" a post so to speak and have made sure to be very comprehensive in all the posts I write, which is why many of them are often long. I've also never believed in putting up a post to establish a "quota" so to speak. I've never been given any direct orders from management that I need "x" amount of posts in a day. They're obviously highly invested in wanting the traffic to be as high as possible, as do I. But my belief is keeping the blog thoroughly active throughout the day will keep people returning to the site so long as the posts remain high in quality.

Like the Lakers are about to do, I've starting to ratchet up the intensity of my work because there is so much going on. But this is also applying to one of the biggest weaknesses I've had with not interacting on the threads as much as I should or like to. I will do a much better job with interacting with everyone rather than just playing traffic cop and adding more comments to keep the conversation engaging.

I know sometimes we have philosophical differences, but I always appreciate your feedback and you're always well reasoned. So free to follow up with any additional concerns you may have with some of the points I brought up or anything else regarding this manner.

Other than Medina's lip prints on Phil Jackson's tookus..........What will be Phil Jackson's coaching legacy?

When Phil retires I can almost guarantee that the triangle offense will NEVER be seen again.

Where is Phil Jackson's coaching tree? Phil may go down in history as the worst coach in terms of producing other successful coaches using his "Zen" philosopy........whatever that is

Why do no other teams emulate the coaching style of Phil know.......disinterested, let them figure it out for themselves, no timeouts to stop momentum, constant criticism of your best player, birkenstock sandals, inability to articulate his own fact inability of anybody to articulate what "Zen" is and how it relates to basketball.

Oh wait a minute..........Jimmy Cleamons tried that in Dallas and Bill Cartwright tried it in Chicago and Kurt Rambis is trying it right now in Minnesota

I guess Phil couldn't loan these coaches the biggest ingredients that make up this "Zen" BS...............MJ, Pippen, Rodman, Shaq and of course Kobe Bryant

Thanks Mark for your lengthy reply.

That observation is not just me, I can share u as well the others too. I know there are plenty of news during playoffs, must u cover them all in the manner you're posting thread for every hour. As u can see bloggers lost their appetite to get into conversations and posting less per thread because of rampant change. I mentioned quota since you're in the business ticks and not on posts so the more threads, the more visits you also get. I think Lakers Blog became a popular site not because of its capability of transmitting news through thread but from overall conversation among bloggers, the debates, the drama and insights. Why don't you try for an experiment? Remove all postings and just go on producing threads and see how long with your blog will last. J. Adande, Kareem, Mike Brez did not last long and they're famous individuals, I think people come to visit this blog want to know what LakerTom, Hobbit, Tom Daniels, MVP888, Lews, Diandra, Jon K, NBA4ever, Triangulator and many more will say.....I say give them the forum to comment on a particular thread, they can't all stand all day posting. We had really fun of the playoffs in the past when Kbros put up only few threads but lengthy composition. Posters put up also their own threads which becomes a sub thread within a thread.

Why don't u conduct a survey among bloggers and see what they want?

The comment threads are a huge reason why the Lakers blog has such a community. But understand that it this is a website too and has to provide for the readers who don't comment on the threads but visit the blog regularly too.

We've been trying without success unfortunately in trying to set up a forum so that conversations threads don't get interrupted with a new post. But I'm not opposed to reposting comments on new threads or if people want to stick to commenting on a previous thread so it's easier for other to navigate it. One item that I've hoped has helped in following that is the addition of the recent comments so it's easy to notice which thread has the most recent comment.


I agree with Edwin about fewer threads being nicer. It really makes interaction between readers such as ourselves richer and more fun. I understand your point of view and do appreciate you addressing our concerns.

Setting up a forum would be the PERFECT solution.

Phil manages NBA minds better than anyone ever has. He combines that with basketball knowledge that is extremely good. No one is a better big picture guy. Doc may be a good motivator. Poppovich is a masterful tactician and disciplinarian. Thibodeau is defensive wunderkind. Despite small mistakes in rotations and a very challenging style that doesn't accommodate many players, Phil is the best coach of all time, a visionary genius with results surpassing all of his peers.

Phil prepares his teams better for the playoffs than anyone. His regular season is like SERE training, preparing players for the most difficult circumstances so that the players can handle them when they occur on the court where there is no Phil. Then his team, like Special Forces, can work independently to accomplish their goals without needing outside help.

Phil may drive you crazy, but there's just no arguing with his results.

Wow, pfunk36, rather than disparage a practice liberating millions which has clearly frustrated you by its bewildering, absorb what is rarely defined (the point being you have to learn thru experiencing, not instruction), "Zen", as you put quotes around it as if it is void (and you're right), means do it NOW, without thought, as Wooden wrote, Hurry but don't rush. Keep within yourself by performing as unconsciously as you can, not thinking about it, planning it, just REACT, perform, NOW! Ever hear "meditation is not what you think?" There are many ways to meditate, including practicing, or playing, mindlessness thru physical action. They are all yogas, which means "union" (with self). "Getting yourself together."

If Zen can't be explained, it is because it has be done, felt. Cogitating about it is not It. That would be like reading about swimming and thinking you've done it, or got the experience. If you don't have it, as a physical experience and need to see it in action, just watch Luke Walton every time he touches the ball: He doesn't either. He thinks constantly. He pauses before acting, then he looks awkward. He's constipated, mentally. Oh, and he rides the bench and is inserted only if someone is suddenly injured and it doesn't matter if he comes in cold and gets injured too, someone has to go in, NOW, and that's about as Zen as Luke gets.

As far as the team hoping Phil will return, why does any observer think they keep falling apart, putting on the brakes, giving up, losing, as Phil goes crazy with body english on the throne? They do not want him back. They're tired of him. They'd rather win it all by driving him crazy to make sure he doesn't return. And he's got the message.

He will not be back. All things must pass, as Phil knows (transcience!).



In Case You Missed It...


All Things Lakers »

Your database for all things purple and gold.

Find a Laker

Search a name

Select a season

Choose one of our lists



About the Bloggers

Bleacher Report | Lakers

Reader contributions from Times partner Bleacher Report

More Lakers on Bleacher Report »

Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists:

In Case You Missed It...