Saturday, 29 January 2011


A coach who has found his soul.

By Tim David Harvey

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson gestures during a practice session in Barcelona October 6, 2010. The Lakers will play against Barcelona in an NBA Europe Live basketball game at Palau Sant Jordi on Thursday. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

"Basketball, unlike football with its prescribed routes, is an improvisational game, similar to jazz. If someone drops a note, someone else must step into the vacuum and drive the beat that sustains the team."PHIL JACKSON, 'The Last Season'.

This is it, no album, no movie. The greatest figure in the game during the 90's not named M.J. is hanging up his smart shoes and dry erase board. No more smells of incense in the locker room, no more meditation at half-time. After this season in locker-rooms everywhere in the NBA, from the STAPLES centre to the staples of other teams, after this season a calm will have left the building. Where not talking about the lockout, but the retirement of the greatest coach in NBA history after the cigar smoke has cleared. Phil Jackson reiterated Thursday that this would be 'The Last Season', autobiography or no autobiography. It is written.

Appreciate him now, while he's still here. There will be no honour rolls throughout the league, there wasn't even one in Chicago. There will be no Jerry West press conferences, despite the jokes. This enigmatic man who loves the game, but doesn't suffer fools isn't one for the hoopla surrounding hoops. He'll appreciate his time, but will slowly and calmly go about and on his way. He's already had his Jordan moment, coming out of retirement. He's not going to do it again, he knows better. Besides your not going to want to disturb this man while he's in the middle of nowhere, finding peace love and understanding.

So let's celebrate and look back now as Jax looks forward to know press conferences and basketball politics as usual. The Zen is what has given the association it's spirit for the last two decades, from the eccentric to the sarcastic, the candor to the calm. He's the master who has taught two of the greatest students of all-time. Turned the "uncoachable" into the untouchable. Taking care of Chicago like Elliott Ness, guarding L.A's Hollywood stars like Kevin Costner.

Jackson has had a lot of different shapes to deal with in his time and he's turned it all into a beautiful triangle, whether you understand or not. From M.J. To Kobe, Scottie to Lamar, Rodman to Artest, Kukoc to Gasol, Kerr to Fisher and...erm, Longley to Shaq. No matter the talent Phil has made sure each man brought the best out of himself, whatever the frustration. Now that and the Zen calm is what makes P.J. The best coach ever, day or night. Besides Phil's seen Red and raised him a championship. Now that's a 10 out of 10 career.

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and head coach Phil Jackson, pose for photos during the basketball team's media day at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California on Sept. 25, 2010.  UPI/Jim Ruymen Photo via Newscom

Still Kobe's promising us and him one more. Kobe always wants to win but this year he's doing it for Phil, to show his appreciation. These two guys have had an incredible journey, with all the peaks, valleys, vestibules and alleys that you'd expect...and then some. When we all thought Phil was done, in more ways then one in 2006, it wasn't hinted it at it was stated in his best-selling, all-telling book ('The Last Season: A Team In Search Of A Soul') that his relationship with Bryant was in a state of disrepair. You would never believe in a million years back then that these two would lick their wounds, heal and be on the verge of a possible second three-peat and Jax's fourth overall.

Whatever went on between them since the death of a dynasty has rocked every critics argument that both men and their teams had seen their best days. Whatever was said will remain between Kobe, Phil and the bait when they go fly-fishing together and reminisce in years time. Still whatever was done renders his last book forgotten and somewhat obsolete (it's still a great read though). This is the 'real' last season and by changing his mind and Kobe as a player, Phil successfully re-wrote his own and his basketball second sons history. They really got it together. Thank God for the dream of Jeanie.

Jackson has proved that you can catch lightening in a bottle twice, or three times over even. Decades after Kob unlaces them one last time, the debate will rage over who was better, him or Mike. Still no one will quite know both men and have quite the qualified gospel to speak on them like Phil Jackson. He truly brought the best out of them and helped them become the icons they are. Now that's influence, now that's inspirational. Jordan was trying to dig his way out the East with Coach Collins but he didn't win anything until he was 'Dougless'. No offence to Doug Collins, but Jackson truly understood Jordan and together they made history, season after season, after championship, after championship.

June 16, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02205959 Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson during practice on the off day before game seven of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA 16 June 2010. The series is tied 3-3 for the best of seven games.

No man has ever been synonymous with two teams, but still regarded in his own legend like Phil Jackson. A legend on two coaches and a great role player in his on-court days for New York, Phil's always been reliable. They say the worst players make the best coaches but Coach Jackson is no average man, he's played his role to a tee, Basketballs true iron man in stark contrasts. Speaking of reliable Jackson is moulding a successor in the form of assistant and former three-peat champion role-player Brian Shaw. Normally an inexperienced head coach on a championship, calibre team would raise doubts but not when he comes with the tutoring and endorsement of a sheer legend of strategy. With this co-sign, you know there will be peace of mind.

Still for all the concern gone there will be commiseration aplenty because between the Windy City and the Californian sun, the calm and the storm, the red, purple and championship gold, the Eastern philosophy and promise and the triangle and the shape of things to come, there is, hasn't been and won't be anyone quite like Phil Jackson. Still rest-assured, he isn't done yet.

"I thrive on challenges, and there is no more imposing challenge for someone in my profession than winning an NBA title."PHIL JACKSON, 'The Last Season'.

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