No plans to return for Phil Jackson
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- After all the last words, Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson finally had his.
"I have no plans to return," Jackson said Wednesday, after finishing up his season-ending exit interviews with his team. "Today I'm sure. What it's going to be like in six months, who knows?"
It was classic, esoteric Jackson. On point, then a wiggle.
Phil Jackson talks about the Lakers tumultuous season and failed playoff run in what was likely his final year as head coach.
"It will be a struggle," Jackson said of creating a life outside of basketball. "There's going to be an occasion when I'm going to be enamored with a game or with a team, with how the Lakers are doing.
"That's always something to get over. But one of the things I watch in my days with my coaches was there was a point, and I'm about at that point, where you either move on or stay in it, you never break away from it and it becomes the rest of your life. I always kind of thought that I'd like to do something beyond just the basketball coaching."
Jackson is still "musing" about what that something might be for him, but he seemed comfortable, even excited about the uncertainly.
"Some of the musings that I have always had are adventures," he said. "I was a kid that liked to read 'Robinson Crusoe' and those types of things.
"The last time I had a year off I traveled to the South Pacific and enjoyed what I did even though it was only six weeks. But I realized on that trip that I was not physically capable of doing that tripping and adventure that I'd always hoped to be able to do.
"So a couple operations later and one still to follow, maybe I'll get back to those kinds of things, the adventure part that I've always liked to imagine I would do. One of my favorites is a guy named Johnny Rodgers who traveled the world East to West and North to South on a motorcycle. Those are the kinds of things that interest me, that are challenges I would've liked to have done."
Jackson declined to endorse any candidate as his successor, saying it was "unfair" to the process. He also declined to make specific recommendations about personnel in the wake of the Lakers' disappointing second-round sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, except to say the team needed more "speed."
"It's still a good team," Jackson said. "It needs to build speed. They need to get some easy baskets as a group. I think that's the biggest key in basketball is that you have to be able to find a way to score that's not always in a set offense."
Later in the afternoon, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak acknowledged that there will be one or two assistants from the current staff who would likely be candidates to succeed Jackson, but deferred questions about the coaching search until he spoke to owner Dr. Jerry Buss and his son Jim Buss.
Brian Shaw is the current assistant coach mentioned as the top in-house candidate to succeed Jackson.
"I've heard a number of names come up and I know there are a lot of systems that are very similar to ours," Jackson said, when asked whether he thought the next coach should keep the triangle offense if the roster is relatively similar.
"[Systems] that go by keys and passes and instead of coaches running up and down the sidelines calling plays," Jackson said. "There are other coaches in this league that have systems that work by sequences. So I think they [Lakers management] understand that that's an important aspect of basketball. I wouldn't be surprised if the next coach didn't have those kind of philosophies that I have."
As for his failed "Last Stand," Jackson seemed to have moved on rather quickly from the disappointingly short stand.
"I'm always relieved when a season's over," he said. "This team just had an ability to get in a funk and not be able to resurge and find a common thread and turn things around. I never really had a team like that that couldn't make adjustments and learn from mistakes."
Jackson retires having won 11 NBA titles as a coach and two as a player.
"I said what I wanted to say on Sunday, so I don't want to belabor this at all," he said. "Just wanted to come down and thank the L.A. fans. The Laker fans particularly have been generous to me. When I first came here they thanked me for coming to L.A. I hope they thank me for leaving."
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com.