By Dennis J. Freeman
El Segundo, CA-Phil Jackson gave the Los Angeles Lakers and the city five championship banners during his two stints coaching the team.
He unified superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’ Neal long enough to secure three NBA titles.
Prior to this season, Jackson guided the Lakers to three straight Finals appearances, winning two championships in the process. Including his resume stint with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Jackson has earned 11 championships, more than any coach in the history of the NBA.
Yet his exit as coach of the Lakers was modestly pedestrian. There was no great fanfare when Jackson made what many consider to be his last official appearance as an NBA coach as he left the Lakers training facility in El Segundo after his final exit interview.
There was no grand parade set up to celebrate his mighty contribution to the Purple and Gold tradition of hoisting up championship banners and accumulating Larry O’Brien trophies. There wasn’t a wave of fans lining up to say good-bye for the memories to the future Hall of Fame coach. This is a shame.
Outside of the Black Mamba, Jackson has been the face of the storied franchise for 11 years. He’s been a model of consistency throughout his coaching career, implementing a defense-minded approach that translated into a successful run of winning, collecting titles and adoration. Unfortunately for Jackson and the Lakers, closing the season with a possible three-peat after winning the last two championships, was simply not in the works.
Bowing out of the playoffs in the second round, thanks to a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, was not the way Jackson and the Lakers envisioned finishing their season. But it happened.
“This team just had an ability to get into a funk and not be able to resurge, find a common thread to come back and turn things around,” Jackson said. “I never really had a team like that; they couldn’t make adjustments and learn from mistakes. It’s been a remarkable run and everybody knows that. It has been a very devastating loss.”
The sunset may have come down for the last time on Jackson’s career. Now the Lakers are left to deal with a summer of uncertainty as they look for a new coach.
The team is also left with the inevitable task of perhaps replacing personnel on the roster. The one thing that is certain is that the Lakers need more athleticism and upgrade in overall team speed. Jackson admitted as much during his final official media appearance as the Lakers coach.
“I don’t know if my opinion really matters,” said Jackson. “It’s still a good team. It needs to build speed. It needs to have some speed. They need to get some easy baskets as a group. That’s the biggest key in basketball is that you have to find a way to score that’s not always in a set offense, that’s not always in a halfcourt offense.”
Before his players met with the media following their exit interviews, all of them had nothing but high praise for their former coach. Bryant said he’ll continue to seek advice and talk with Jackson even if the Zen Master is no longer an official Lakers employee. Lamar Odom humorously said he’ll miss Jackson’s sarcasm. When asked if the day was an emotional one for him, Jackson, either emphatically serious or sarcastically humorous about the moment, said it wasn’t.
“It’s not emotional,” Jackson said with a deadpan grin. “It’s warm.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about social justice, civil rights, education, politics, and crime. He also covers the NFL, NBA, MLB as well as other sports. Based in Southern California, Dennis earned a journalism degree with a minor in criminal justice from Howard University. The real HU!!