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Thursday, May 15
Updated: May 16, 11:21 AM ET
Jackson expects to be back healthy next season

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Phil Jackson's most difficult season as an NBA head coach will not be his last -- health permitting.

Arguably the most successful coach in NBA history, Jackson finished a season with a loss Thursday night for the first time since 1995.

"We've had a great run,'' Jackson said after the San Antonio Spurs beat the Los Angeles Lakers 110-82 Thursday night to win their Western Conference semifinal series 4-2. "We're happy to say we tried our best. It wasn't good enough.''

Barring the unforeseen, the 57-year-old Jackson said he'll return to coach the Lakers next season.

"I have to be optimistic with my own personal health and the direction I'm going,'' said Jackson, who had an angioplasty last Saturday to unblock an artery to his heart.

Jackson has one year remaining on the five-year, $30 million contract he signed in June 1999. He said earlier this week he'd make a final decision on next season over the summer and not think about his future beyond that any time soon.

Jackson's personal problems began in late February when he had a kidney stone removed, causing him to miss three games.

"It felt like that just really knocked me back,'' he said. "I didn't feel like I was at the top of my game again until this week.''

Another blow came Wednesday when Dave DeBusschere, a former teammate with the New York Knicks, died of a heart attack at age 62.

Jackson's teams won a record 25 straight playoff series -- 12 with the Chicago Bulls from 1996-98, and 13 with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000 to the present.

The Spurs ended those streaks decisively.

The three-time defending champion Lakers were attempting to become the second team in NBA history to win four or more consecutive titles, joining the Boston Celtics, who won eight straight starting in 1959.

And Jackson was trying to win his 10th title, putting him one ahead of former Boston coach Red Auerbach for the most ever.

"I can't put it into perspective until I watch these next rounds go on,'' Jackson said when asked how he feels about bowing out of the playoffs so early -- at least for him.

Regarding next season, he said: "We're excited about replacing players who are moving on. I anticipate being back and coaching this team.

"We have a knowledge of winning. The fans have every reason to be optimistic that we'll come back with a revitalized team.''

Jackson congratulated the Spurs, saying they left no doubt they were the best team in this series.

"We couldn't make the correct steps,'' Jackson said. "We stumbled, we fell, we had inconsistencies, we lacked some discipline as a basketball club and we paid the price.''

Jackson has 162 playoff victories and his teams have won 41 postseason series -- both NBA records.

Now, it's time for him to head to his summer home in Montana.

"We need that time, that extra month, to rest up,'' Jackson said.

He was talking about his players. Perhaps he also meant himself.




• Stein: A fitting finale for Lakers, Spurs

• Duncan and Parker help Spurs finish off Lakers

• Tracking the Lakers' trouble in 2002-03

• Lakers' Jackson felt 'great' after return to bench

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