HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — He has to take the calls and at least entertain the possibility of coming back, especially when teams are offering the ridiculous amounts of money and power you know they are to legendary coach Phil Jackson.
We’re hoping Jackson has the restraint that others in his shoes, living legends in their particular field with absolutely nothing left to prove, uses the power of Zen to resist any urge to come back. It’s not that we don’t love having him around, because the league is infinitely more interesting with him in front of the microphone and sitting in that high chair on the sideline somewhere.
But there is simply no need for a comeback, certainly not as a coach. Any lingering sting at the way he went out, Jackson’s Lakers were swept in the Western Conference semifinals last season by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks, should pale in comparison to the historic mountain of accomplishments Jackson piled up during his coaching career.
You would hope that the 11 rings, countless memories and his status as arguably the greatest coach of all time (in the NBA and anywhere else), would be enough to satisfy Jackson’s basketball jones.
But if we are to believe Thursday rumblings that Jackson bowed out of an opportunity to take over in some capacity in Orlando, maybe a lifetime spent in the winner’s circle is not enough for Jackson.
It’s not exactly clear which side reached out first. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Jackson’s return would have been in a front office/consultant role rather than as the replacement for Stan Van Gundy:
Magic CEO Alex Martins was formally presented on Wednesday with a scenario involving Jackson by Sam Vincent, who played for the Magic and Jackson.
“It drew some interest from Phil,” Vincent said. “But in the end, Phil decided to go with another opportunity.”
Jackson is apparently headed back to the NBA in some capacity, but he pulled out here before Martins had a chance to run it by owner Rich DeVos. Martins learned of Jackson’s exit Thursday, but would not comment.
“Not because of this specific situation, but because I have been consistent during the search that I won’t comment on specific candidates,” Martins said in an e-mail. “I stand by my statement that we will put a premium on searching for Championship experience in the positions within in our search.”
Vincent said Jackson gave him the impression that he doesn’t want to coach anymore. But the Magic scenario would have involved Jackson as either the team president/ general manager or in a consulting role — sort of like Pat Riley looking down from his office at Erik Spoelstra in Miami.
Vincent said that Jackson, 66, was intrigued enough by the idea that Vincent and another intermediary were preparing to fly to Jackson’s home in Montana to speak with him. And, if the talks went well, they would next approach Howard.
That intermediary with Vincent was a former all-star player and Hall of Famer who, in Vincent’s plan, was to be the next coach of the Magic. Jackson would help mentor him.
Jackson can mentor anyone he wants from his Montana home. And if he’s itching to talk the game, something tells me he wouldn’t have to beg for a job analyzing the game on someone’s set (surely they could find a high chair for him at NBA TV).
But these scenarios like the one described in Orlando sound like better opportunities for the men who have played for and been associated with Jackson over the years than it does for Jackson himself.
Coming back to preside over a rebuilding situation in Orlando, or anywhere else where a championship run is not in the offing, is quite frankly beneath an icon of Jackson’s status. No offense to the Magic or any other team longing to sniff some of the championship fumes they believe come with being associated with Jackson, but it’ll take more than just an iconic figure in the front office or on the sideline to fuel your resurgence.
Proving to your fans that you are serious about competing at the highest level is a much more complicated endeavor than just having a championship appearance.
Jackson doesn’t need to be a part of that futile exercise.
He doesn’t have to chase anything at this stage of his basketball life.
There are no loose ends.
There is nothing left to prove.
And there is no need for a comeback just for comeback’s sake.