Jackson will return to Lakers

Updated: July 2, 2010, 11:33 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- The idea of his fourth three-peat must have been too much for Phil Jackson to pass up.

The Los Angeles Lakers coach told the team Thursday that he will return for his 11th season on the bench in L.A. and an even 20th to cap his NBA coaching career.

"Count me in," Jackson said in a statement. "After a couple weeks of deliberation, it is time to get back to the challenge of putting together a team that can defend its title in the 2010-11 season. It'll be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one."

Jackson had told the Lakers he needed to address health concerns before committing to another season. His right knee has been bothering him for some time.

Jackson received a clean bill of health early this week after going through a series of examinations to check out both surgically replaced hips; his heart that had a stent placed in it during the 2003 playoffs; kidney stones that had bothered him this season; and his troublesome right knee that caused him to start regularly wearing a knee brace for support.

Jackson had been weighing whether to have knee-replacement surgery this summer, but he's likely to defer that until next summer at the earliest.

"Everything [with his health] is good," Jackson's agent, Todd Musburger, said in a telephone interview Thursday. "That was of course a big part of the process that he wanted to go through before making a decision as to whether or not he should return to coaching or retire."

Jackson, who turns 65 in September, is a member of the Hall of Fame who has led the Lakers and Chicago Bulls to 11 championships, the most of any coach. The Lakers have won the last two after winning three in a row from 2000 to '02. The Michael Jordan-led Bulls won titles in 1991-93 and 1996-98 with Jackson at the helm.

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"We're extremely pleased that Phil has decided to return," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "With this most recent championship, we've now won five titles in the 10 years he's been our head coach and have been to the Finals in seven of those 10 years, which is amazing. He's not only the best coach for this team, but quite simply the best coach in the history of the NBA."

Jackson's contract terms for next season were not immediately available, but one source close to the situation told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that Jackson knew and accepted the basic parameters Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss has in mind before Jackson returned to his offseason home in Montana.

Multiple reports have stated Jackson will take a pay cut this season, but Jackson admitted, "It's still a ridiculous salary, whatever it is," when asked about the projected figure during the Western Conference finals in May.

According to Lakers sources, the terms of a new deal have not been formally agreed upon, but both sides said a one-year deal would be reached quickly. At the end of the deal, if Jackson changed his mind and wanted to return, the Lakers would again be open to that possibility.

"We expect that to go smoothly at the right time for the Lakers office and for us," Musburger said. "We'll get at it."

Jackson, who said last week he was "leaning towards retiring" just a day after Sports Illustrated quoted his daughter Chelsea as saying, "I think this is it. I think he's done now," in a cover story about the Lakers' Finals victory against the Boston Celtics, has become reinvigorated in recent days when removed from the daily pressure of his occupation.

"He sounds extremely pleased with what he's decided and he's already looking forward to next season," Musburger said. "Truthfully, Phil does enjoy what he does. We all know how stressful it must be, we can only empathize with that. The stress is high, the pressure is great. When you manage the Yankees or coach the Lakers or you're the soccer coach for England, there are expectations and winning is not good enough, you have to win the championship.

"Phil obviously has some real gifts for what he does. He loves it. The game is of course a huge part of his life. I don't expect any change in his intensity, or his focus, or his desire. He loves being a part of the action. He's had tremendous success. He really enjoys his fellow coaches. They're very important to him. And he obviously enjoys the club that he has and he looks forward to saddling up again."

Various members of the Lakers organization shared in Jackson's joy.

"I'm happy, I'm glad," said Craig Hodges, Lakers special assistant coach. "It's a chance to make some history."

Free agent Shannon Brown, in the midst of contract negotiations with the Lakers himself, said, "I'm excited and happy for him!!!" in a text message to ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Ron Artest posted a message to his Twitter feed that said, "Thank You Phil Love you man!!!!! Let's get it LA."

Jackson's girlfriend and Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, a Twitter regular, tweeted earlier in the week that she remained "optimistic" about him returning to coach.

"I knew it was getting close when Phil asked me if Doc was coming back (he doesn't watch too much TV in MT)," Buss wrote, referring to Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who made it official he was returning to Boston on Wednesday.

While Jackson is calling 2010-11 his "last stand," he's been known to bend the definition of the word "last" in the past. In 1997-98, he bonded the Bulls with the theme of looking at the season as the "Last Dance." In October of 2004, Jackson released a book called "The Last Season," in which he documented a turbulent '03-04 campaign with the Lakers that ended with a Finals loss to the Pistons, leading to a dismantling of the team and the second retirement of Jackson's coaching career.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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