Phil Jackson will be done as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of the 2011 NBA season. Jackson may retire from basketball as well, at least if you believe the interpretation that some NBA analysts are taking from his pending decision. It seems that Jackson is content to leave the Lakers at the end of the year, whether he is able to lead Los Angeles to another title or not.
According to ESPN, Jackson finally started talking about leaving the Lakers at the end of the season, actually addressing questions he had avoided to this point. Now he has called the 2010-11 season with the Lakers his “last stand,” and it could be a good one if he can help steer the Lakers back to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals. If the Lakers can beat the Eastern Conference champion again this year, it will be the fourth time that Jackson has completed a three-peat with his teams.
Jackson stands alone at the top of the NBA coaching world, leading all coaches in the history of the game with his 11 championship rings. He helped coach the Chicago Bulls to the first six of those titles, aided by the play of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Then he came over to the Lakers and was able to coach Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal during their best years in the league.
Now with the threesome of Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom, he has two rings in the past two years. He has run out of fingers for these championship rings, but most people wouldn’t complain in that situation.
Jackson is just 65 years old right now, so he is actually still pretty young in the field of coaching. He has, however, dedicated most of his life to the NBA, first as a championship winner on the court for the New York Knicks, and then as a coach in the NBA. Now he has helped the Lakers to a 33-13 record in the Western Conference, good enough for the second best record in the West, and certain to give the Lakers homecourt advantage when the 2011 Playoffs finally get started in April.
Some say that Jackson has only won this many titles because of the players he has had on the court, but it isn’t something that should be taken away from him. He is definitely one of the best coaches who has come along in the NBA, and he is well deserving of a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame just for his coaching accolades. At this point, though, if he wants to get back to his family life, then more power to him. He has accomplished nearly everything that a coach could ever do, meaning there aren’t many challenges left.
Maybe that final challenge could be to take over a terrible team and prove himself once and for all? Or maybe it’s time to just move on to that next chapter. Either way, it seems very clear that the Lakers and Jackson are about to part ways.