I grew up with Phil Jackson. Hell, both my mother and grandma love the guy simply because “he’s always so cool.” The Zen Master commanded the sidelines, winning 11 of the past 20 NBA championships and leaves the game as a living legend. And his prolific, previous success is the reason why the Lakers Game 4 backyard ass whooping felt so much like the end of an era.
The incomparable – and diehard Boston Celtics loyalist – Bill Simmons caught up with the man who has more rings than fingers to discuss why Father Time eventually put the cap on a historic career and why we have all seen the last of Phil Jackson roaming a sideline.
When I met the greatest living basketball coach for lunch in late March, the Lakers were rolling and Phil Jackson was feeling pretty good. Just not physically. He ambled through the doorway of an El Segundo restaurant, a thin smile spread across his face, looking like one of the surviving heroes in a Michael Bay movie. Everything above his belt lurched forward, as if he were straining to see out a window. To relieve the pressure on his aching knees, he jutted out his butt behind him, so it seemed like he was hobbling on broken glass. Structurally, the man looked broken.
We shook hands and Phil slid into a wooden booth, then figured out the best way for his body to settle. The same way you’d balance yourself on a raft in a pool. For the first few minutes, he sat upright with his elbows resting on the table. Eventually he shifted his weight to the left, bent his body that direction, put everything on his left elbow and remained that way. Like how you might read a book in bed. A few minutes later, he gathered himself a second time, straightened himself, stuck out those famously long arms and leaned on those elbows again. Once upon a time, Jackson impressed an NBA scout by sitting in the back seat of a Volkswagen and opening all four doors with those arms. Now he was using them to support his weight.
Somewhere between his second and third strategic realignment, I realized something: Phil Jackson definitely wasn’t coaching next season. And probably, never again.
Read Simmons’ full article on ESPN’s Page 2.
Bonus: Speaking of the Lakers and their coaching carousel, be sure to take in this extremely well-written, moving piece on Brian Shaw by Arash Markazi. It chronicles the story of the Lakers assistant coach from his early days in the NBA and the unspeakable tragedy which has haunted him for the past 18 years. The article is a must read, regardless if you live and breathe L.A. basketball or still celebrating their recent demise.
Previously: What’s Next For The Lakers?