Would Phil Jackson love a chance to coach the Los Angeles Lakers again? Probably, under certain circumstances. Maybe for home games, only. Maybe starting after St. Patrick's Day. Only if Dwight Howard promises to stop acting like that. Perhaps if Steve Nash agrees to lose the side part. Possibly not at all.
And definitely not because of the interview he gave an ESPN radio affiliate in Chicago last week, smartly discussing what Lakers coach Mike Brown is going through and anticipating as he readies himself to coach a championship contender featuring all sorts of characters, talents, possible clashing elements and definite Hall of Famers. Phil was tactful and considerate and did absolutely nothing to dismiss Brown's work in any way. That's not the point of this column.
First, let's look at Jackson's recent Laker take, from Mark Medina's recount of Phil's interview as posted on the Los Angeles Times' website:
"It's finding a role that each player can move towards and be comfortable in," Jackson said. "I think that's how you want to feel. You want Steve to have the ability to have the ball with confidence that he is doing the right thing and feeling like he can run the team and getting the ball to Kobe in critical situations is important because that's what his best role is standing out in the moments of crisis or the moments that are critical. And the inclusion that you have to have to make Howard feel a part of it. So all those guys have to find a little role. "
Jackson took particularly aim at how Pau Gasol will fit in Brown's revamped system that will include elements of the Princeton offense.
"Pau Gasol can fit any of those roles, so he doesn't have any trouble fitting that role," Jackson said. "He's not identified with just scoring, so he'll be all right, whatever they try to run. I think that is going to be the key."
Though Phil's comments were accurate, as you'd expect, he stuck with the unspoken coach's credo and didn't delve into specific elements while discussing another coach's team. The generalities were spot on, but there was absolutely nothing in this on-record statement that shows Phil's hand.
Still, it was enough for the media member that likely knows Jackson best — author Roland Lazenby — to see right through him. There was nothing in this interview that was set up as a way to make dominos fall in Jackson's favor sometime down the line, but that doesn't mean Phil Jackson wouldn't give his left mustache for a chance to coach a team featuring Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash.
Again, nothing from Phil's interview suggests he wants the Lakers gig. We're just guessing he wants the Lakers gig because, well, it's the Lakers. They have Steve Nash and Dwight Howard now. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are still there. Something something "Jodie Meeks."
It's because Phil's a competitor. YOU'D love a chance, dearest basketball fan, to coach the Lakers this season. It doesn't mean you're on the team's radar, or that Mike Brown's job is in jeopardy, but it would be damn fun to work with four Hall of Famers for around 100 games this year. To say nothing of living in Los Angeles and making millions of dollars a season. Phil's not angling for anything, he's just having fun; though it bears repeating that Lazenby also mentioned that Jackson would covet a ring from the Buss family to coach these Lakers as much as he would an eventual 12th championship ring.
So sayeth Roland, and Phil, from the couch. Mike Brown, the coach, is busy in California dealing with media, working through two-a-days, instilling a new offense, and figuring out how in the hell he's going to make this all work. There will be weekdays this year where Brown will be working in the dead of winter in Minnesota, or Cleveland, and there will be times where his team has to play on consecutive nights in cities hundreds of miles apart from each other.
Phil Jackson, of the 3,200 combined NBA regular-season and playoff games as a player, assistant coach, and head coach (not counting games missed due to injury or DNP-CD), knows this better than anyone.
Nobody trumped up the joy of the journey more than this guy, but even for the most mindful the journey can be a real drag. Nothing against Cleveland, or Minnesota, but those cities don't really look like Cleveland or Minnesota when you're on the road. It's another walk from the tarmac, another hotel room, another locker room, and another annoying PA guy pressing the button that leads to "EVERYBODY CLAP YOUR HANDS CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP."
This is what Jackson considered, every summer, before those millions and that yearly NBA challenge (and not in that order) brought him back. The man is 67 years old, and 45 years worth of hoop-related travels (we didn't even include Jackson's stints in the CBA and Puerto Rican leagues in that too-perfect "3,200" number) take their toll. They might provide you with 13 championship rings as a coach and player, enough fodder for a series of books and an enviable amount of memories to reflect upon; but those years and those miles will also turn your spine into a gnarled ember, to say nothing of the cynicism that sets in when you've seen this dance before.
Phil's a fan, above all, and fans pine for great basketball nearly above all. The only thing better than great basketball is the chance to contribute directly in the creation of that great basketball, and we're sure that under certain conditions Jackson would love another shot at making something potentially great into something certainly legendary. It's probably not best to read into anything he says on the record, but you're more than fine in assuming that a coach with skills above all would love the chance to showcase them all over again.
Just keep talking, Phil. In the interim, that's all we ask.
Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
• Drew Brees sets new touchdown record
• Massive crash takes out field in final lap at Talladega (VIDEO)
• Tiger Woods apologized to Ryder Cup rookies for poor play at Medinah
• GrindTV.com: Angry deer forces man to find an escape