Filed at 7:30 p.m. May 8
What is expected to be the end of the line for Phil Jackson as Los Angeles Lakers coach came Sunday.
His team lost by 36 points, swept out of the NBA playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks in a performance that left the Lakers outclassed (Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum were ejected) as well as outplayed. So much for the threepeat and so much for another championship for Jackson, who looked as if he were auditioning for a Southwest Airlines commercial for most of the game.
“It feels really good to be ending with this season, to be honest with you,” Jackson said. “I came back this last year with some trepidation. You know, Kobe’s [Bryant] knee was an issue and obviously out team was older. The thrill of trying to chase a threepeat is always an exciting thing. ... I knew it was a big challenge for this team to threepeat. We’d gone to the Finals and to go back twice and win it after losing in ‘08 puts a lot of strain on a basketball club from all angles, personalities, spiritually, physically, emotionally. Getting charged up for game after game and assault after assault when you go in and play a team. So it was a challenge, a challenge bigger than we could meet this year.”
Jackson laughed when he was asked if he was, indeed, done coaching.
“I haven’t answered that, have I?”
“And you’re not going to force me to answer it, but, yes...all my hopes and aspirations are that this is the final game that I’ll coach. This has been a wonderful run. I go out with a sour note after being fined $35,000 this morning by the league [for critical comments about officiating], so that’s not fun and I’m feeling like I’ve been chased down a freeway by them...As Richard Nixon said, ‘You won’t be able to kick this guy around any more.’”.
Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle joked that “he’ll go to Montana and meditate and ... smoke peyote or whatever he does.” Jackson was asked whether Peyoteville was the next stop for the Zen Express.
“Well, first of all, you don’t smoke peyote. That’s one thing. My trainer who’s been with me for a number of years — Chip Schaefer — sent me a brief web page about Casey Stengel when he lost at 70. The Yankees lost to Pittsburgh in a dramatic seven-game series and they said he was too old to coach any more and he said, ‘I’m sorry I was 70. I’ll never do it again.’ I thought it was clever and humorous in its own way. There is a point where you do feel like there’s a group of young people that are coming in this direction, young coaches who are coming up. They deserve their chance and I’ve had a great opportunity, in a 20-year run here.”
Bryant on life without Jackson: “Phil...it’s tough for me to put into words what he’s meant for me. I grew up under him. The way I approach things, the way I think about things — not only in basketball but in life in general — a lot of it comes from him because I’ve been around him so much. It’s a little weird for me to think about what next year’s gonna look like.”