Phil Jackson: Title fueled return

Updated: March 22, 2011, 11:45 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Lakers fans rode the will-he or won't-he seesaw last season with every detail that emerged about management asking Phil Jackson to take a pay cut to return. They wondered if Los Angeles' Hall of Fame coach would try to add to his record 11 titles in 2010-11 or head out to his home in Montana and retire from the sport.

It turns out the decision ultimately didn't come down to money, or the 65-year-old coach's health, but rather the chance to win again, pure and simple.

Speaking before the Lakers hosted the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, Jackson was asked if winning the championship against the Boston Celtics last June propelled him to come back this season.

"Yes," Jackson said. "It did."

The reporter followed up by asking if it would have been easier for Jackson to walk away if the Lakers had lost Game 7.

"I more than likely would have [retired]," Jackson said. "I think that it was pretty obvious that we capped off a great season, but with winning [another championship], Fish [Derek Fisher] and Kobe [Bryant] would have an opportunity to do something very unique in basketball."

If the Lakers capture the championship this season, not only will it be the 12th coaching title and unprecedented fourth three-peat for Jackson, but it will be the sixth ring for both Fisher and Bryant, matching what Jackson accomplished with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls.

So that means if Jackson wins it this year he's going to come back again?

"No," said Jackson with a wry smile, sticking to his "last stand" stance for this year. "There's no such thing as four-peats."

Jackson was corrected, as another reporter pointed out that Boston won not just four, but eight consecutive titles from 1959-66.

"There's no such thing as [the term three-peat or four-peat] back then, no one had even heard of such a thing," Jackson said. "No one even watched the games, literally."

Jackson was later asked if he would be watching the Lakers' coaching search with a keen interest once the team's postseason run concludes and he makes his annual drive from California to Montana.

"I hope not," Jackson said.

When the Lakers were in Atlanta earlier this month, Jackson addressed the job search for his successor, saying that the hire would come down to general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Dr. Jerry Buss, but he surmised he would be contacted for his input at some point.

That conversation hasn't happened yet.

"I haven't been asked anything about that," Jackson said Tuesday. "We're still focused on what we're doing right now and I think the organization obviously has a contingency plan, but it hasn't been known to me."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.