Phil Jackson ready for Chicago finale
CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson believes that Friday night's 88-84 loss to the Chicago Bulls will be his last as a head coach in the United Center -- unless, of course, the teams meet in the NBA Finals.
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"It's definitely the last time I'll ever coach in this building," Jackson said, somewhat sarcastically, after the Lakers' shootaround Friday afternoon. "I don't spend a lot of the time thinking about it, but yes, I anticipate this will be the last time I coach in this building."
Jackson rose to prominence in Chicago, winning six NBA titles during the '90s with Michael Jordan serving as the centerpiece of the team. He has won five titles in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant leading a Lakers squad that faced off against the Bulls on Friday night.
Jackson said last month that he would have a hard time picking a particular affiliation with any one team because he feels so close to the Lakers and the Bulls. Bryant wasn't sure which side to pick, either, when asked whether Jackson would be remembered more as the coach of the Bulls with Jordan or the coach of the Lakers with Bryant.
"I don't know," Bryant said. "The fact to have that dilemma as a coach is unreal.
"The fact that you can be so great with two different franchises is ... I've never, ever seen anything like it. It's unbelievable. The fact that he has an opportunity here to do two three-peats. In Chicago he did two three-peats. It's unheard of. The fact that you even have that question is amazing in itself."
No matter which team Jackson is most closely identified with, Bryant believes the legendary coach already has cemented his legacy at the top.
"He's the greatest coach of all time now," Bryant said. "Anything he does from this point forward just cements his legacy."
That legacy continued Friday night. It's a game that Bryant admitted beforehand meant a little more to him and to his coach.
"There's always an added significance here," Bryant said. "This is such a sports town. You can feel it just walking around, just going out to dinner. They just love their sports here. Very knowledgeable about it. Obviously, a great tradition that they've had here with Phil and Michael and Scottie [Pippen] and Horace [Grant] and Dennis [Rodman] and all the guys. It makes it a little bit more special because you know you have to bring your A-game because the fans here are familiar with that."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. ESPNLosAngeles.com's Lakers reporter Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.