Phil Jackson had done it all. He finally one-upped his nemesis, ol’ Red. The whole chase for the most coaching championships thing (10) seemed to bother Auerbach more than it did P.J. The argument was one of those barroom types, the kind that gets louder as more suds are consumed, the increased volume being necessary because there’s absolutely no factual way to prove which coach was better.
“Oh yeah? Well, Red did it by winning 8 straight and going 9 for 10, while building the Celtics from nothing (hah!)” - where Phil always had, arguably, the two best players in the game (MJ & Scottie or Kobe & Shaq) until this year - when he had the best player (sorry, Bron-Bron, not yet) - and a lot of real good ones to go along with the Black Mamba.
“Sure, but Red had Russell for all those years and when Red quit, Russ won it as player-coach, begging the question, ‘wasn’t having Russell at center a zillion times more important than having Red sit there and light up?’ Also, how many teams were there in the entire NBA when Red was putting together his string - eight? And the first place team got a bye, meaning the Celtics only had to win eight (8) games to win the NBA championship!”
You see, it’s a totally foolish argument which, I don’t think, has ever won over anyone participating in the discussion. So, with that in mind, why would Phil Jackson return to coach the Lakers? Another title isn’t going to change any of the “facts” used when casting a vote for the all-time best NBA coach.
Jackson has to be the highest paid Zen master in all of space, so it couldn’t be for the money. I mean, he can afford private meditation lessons from the Dali Lama himself - even if he wants them on a holiday (when they charge for a mantra and a half). And, as if scoring an eight figure salary (with all eight figures on the left side of the decimal point) from his boss isn’t enough, he’s shtupping the guy’s daughter too. Talk about your sweet gig!
The real reason could be found in the moves being made in the free agent market. First, there are still people who feel that, with a healthy KG, no one can beat the Men in Green. With the moves made by Orlando (getting a slasher/scorer like Vince Carter to go along with Superman - the one who works full-time - and, if they can somehow keep him, Hedo Turkoglu), the Cavs adding Shaq to their roster to aid and assist LeBron James in winning a championship (getting to be Shaq’s MO) so Cleveland gets at least one of those durn things before LBJ bolts for the right coast; and, a few other teams making moves that give them hope (e.g. Denver: with the-point-guard-made-for-George-Karl, Ty Lawson - a lightning quick lead guard who matriculated at Blue Heaven), there are not only challenges for Phil and his band of merry wannabe re-peaters, but they may even take on the role of underdog - when it comes down to who’s the favorite to win it all next year. That would be a twist - and a welcome one for a guy who doesn’t mind a little down & dirty (like the way he played when he was doing work for the Knicks in the ’60s - if his mind is clear enough to remember those days - not from any illegal substances, but from rooming with the cerebral Bill Bradley).
It’s obvious the Lakers aren’t content. One day, Trevor Ariza announces he’s looking around (although he did have a great playoff run, he fit in with the guys surrounding him so well that his job became a lot easier than . . . well, he’ll find out - or I will - soon enough), and, before the youngster can fill out a change-of-address card (or get his agent to do it for him), LA has his replacement and, in Ron Artest might just be an upgrade from the youthful legs and long arms, not to mention what became a pretty dependable jumper, of Ariza.
Don’t pity the LakeShow. All Phil needed was a clean bill of health and he was going to coach. Why? Listen to (or read) the quote from Katherine Graham, owner of the Washington Post:
“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”