Shaquille O'Neal believes Phil Jackson will coach the Knicks
Just when it appeared Phil Jackson would fully enjoy his Montana lakeside home, there's at least one person who believes his retirement will prove to be short-lived.
Shaquille O'Neal believes Jackson will coach again in the NBA, specifically to replace New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni.
"He may come back," O’Neal said to a handful of New York writers of Jackson, a member of the Knicks’ 1970 and 73 teams. "Phil says he’s never coming back but he changed my NBA career. His focus and the way he did things and the way he taught us how to do things, he did it on a cool, calm respectable level. Then I went to Miami and we had problems with all the [yelling]. I’m like, ‘We just won three out of four with this guy [Jackson] so why would I do it this way?’ That’s why we had problems."
Of course, everyone always takes what Shaq says with a grain of salt these days. After all, there's plenty of excerpts in his new book, "Shaq Uncut," that paint a one-sided and often incomplete portrayal of various events. Lakers Executive Vice President Jeanie Buss, Jackson's longtime companion, has always said the Zen Master finds the Knicks job intriguing because it would bring his playing and coaching career full circle. There have also been numerous instances in which Jackson believed he was through teaching his Zen philosophy, such as when the Chicago Bulls captured their sixth NBA title and when he was let go from the Lakers in 2004.
But in fairness to Jackson, he long maintained throughout the 2010-2011 season that he no longer has any interest in coaching. Despite his insatiable competitiveness, Jackson's has long professed he doesn't want to remain bogged down in the game. He lamented the grinding travel schedule. He pointed to his numerous health concerns, including a surgically repaired hip and wobbly knees. He even considered leaving after the Lakers' 2010 title run until insistence from the Lakers' front office, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher convinced him otherwise.
But as we've learned from Jackson throughout his storied coaching career, it's pretty hard to predict the Zen Master's next move. Unless, of course, you're Shaquille O'Neal.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Former Lakers Center Shaquille O'Neal and Coach Phil Jackson prepare for the start of Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs in 2002, when the two would lead the team to its third consecutive NBA title and Jackson's third three-peat. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times