- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson opened up the 2010-11 season by declaring it would be his "last stand." The NBA's all-time championship winning coach said he would be content to walk away after the season whether he won title No. 12 or not.
The 65-year-old Jackson had avoided heavy speculation of whether he would be a man of his word after the season or if the lure of another ring would be too much to turn down, but a recent interview with ESPN's Hannah Storm left him reiterating his future plans.
"Most everybody believes I'm not going to fulfill this 'last stand' promise and I will come back and coach again but it really is [my last season]," Jackson told Storm. "I really want to do this for myself."
Jackson told reporters after Thursday's practice reasons why he feels there is some doubt surrounding his decision.
"Well, I've had a couple retirements in the process," Jackson said. "In the 1998-99 season and also the 2004-05 sabbatical, which was quite enjoyable. And last year, I didn't have a contract at the end of the year so, there was those things that have gone on that have contributed to the fact that it's the last year, but, maybe. ... This year, there's no maybe."
With the regular season already more than halfway finished and the Lakers holding the third-best record in the league at 33-13, Jackson said he doesn't spend any time concentrating on his retirement, referring to it as "that other stuff."
Instead he is anticipating L.A.'s upcoming seven-game, 14-day road trip leading up to the All-Star break that the Lakers plan to come out of with an intensified focus on the final third of the season remaining.
"I think everybody kind of then points to how is the standings [shaping up]," Jackson said. "Where are they going to be? Who's seeded where? Who plays well against the other teams? How do you get your team through this the right way with still the best win-loss record and the best health they possibly could be in? And then we start thinking about that other stuff."
Kobe Bryant, who has played 11 of his 15 seasons in Los Angeles with Jackson as his head coach and has had his rows with him in the past, didn't even want to talk about the prospect of losing his coach at first.
Said Bryant, "Man, you're asking me a question now about something [that will happen] in July?"
Bryant then said that Jackson's impending departure is more of a motivation than distraction for the back-to-back champion Lakers in their quest for a three-peat.
"Yes [it's motivating], for me especially because we've been together for so long I want to make sure I do everything in my power to send him off in the right way," Bryant said.
The first nine championships of Jackson's career have come in three-peat fashion and Jackson has a chance to have his final ring come the same way.
"It will be a sad day [when Jackson retires] but I'm sure I'll get together with him and go fly-fishing at some point or something like that," Bryant said.
Fly-fishing is just one of many activities Jackson could have planned away from basketball.
"I don't plan to be part of basketball," Jackson told Storm. "I don't want to come back as an announcer [or] someone that comments on it. I want to do something else. I have nights where I want to be going to the opera or to the theater rather than following basketball three, four nights a week. But you have to do something that really grabs you and holds your fascination, holds your passion. You have to be passionate about something. I have to seek that, I have to find that."
Earlier in the season when asked if he could envision taking some time off and then returning to the game in the manner of Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins, Jackson answered with an abrupt "No."
"I think I put in my service time," Jackson said before the Lakers played the Sixers on Dec. 31. "I think everything got done with due diligence that I set out to do, especially with this organization and I've coached about as long as I want to coach."
Frank Hamblen, a longtime assistant coach under Jackson, proved to be one of the skeptics Thursday.
"We'll see," Hamblen said. "I hope it isn't [his last stand]. He's kind of acting like it is, but he acted that way last season too. Hopefully we'll have success and he'll want to come back. I mean, what's he going to do [if he retires]? I know it's been reported and he's said it several times, but maybe he's going to be like Brett Favre."
Jackson joked that he would emulate another legendary athlete from down South when he's finished coaching.
"I'm actually going to have a press conference once every two months or something, just to kind of feel right. Maybe like Jerry [West], just to get it out," Jackson said, alluding to West's recent comments that claimed the Lakers were getting too old to play effective defense.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.
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