Friday, June 10, 2011
THE (REAL) LAST SEASON
A coach who has found his soul.
By Tim David Harvey.
"Basketball, unlike football with its prescribed routes, is an improvisational game, similar to jazz. If someone drops a note, someone else must step into the vacuum and drive the beat that sustains the team." PHIL JACKSON, 'The Last Season'.
This is it, no album, no movie. The greatest figure in the game during the 90's not named M.J. has hung up his smart shoes and dry erase board. No more smells of incense in the locker room, no more meditation at half-time. Next season in locker-rooms everywhere in the NBA, from the STAPLES centre to the staples of other teams, a calm will have left the building. We aren't talking about the lockout, but the retirement of the greatest coach in NBA history after the cigar smoke had cleared out gardens and arenas in the United States. Phil Jackson in a chilled out press conference said farewell to 'The Last Season'. Autobiography or no autobiography, it was written.
Here's hoping you appreciated him while he was in sync because the truth remains he's gone. There was no honour rolls throughout the league, there wasn't even one in Chicago. There will be no Jerry West press conferences either, despite the mid-season jokes. This enigmatic man who loves the game, but doesn't suffer fools wasn't one for the hoopla surrounding hoops. He sure appreciated his time more then any of us probably will ever know, but believe it or not he has slowly and calmly gone on his way. He already had his Jordan moment, coming out of retirement. He's not going to do it again, he knows better and we all better believe it and put it to rest even if it was for the Lakers and league best if he returned (no offence Mike Brown). Besides do you want to be the one to disturb this man while he's in the middle of nowhere, finding peace love and understanding?
So let's celebrate and look back now as Jax looks forward to no press conferences and basketball politics as usual. The Zen is what has given the association it's spirit for the last two decades. From the eccentric to the sarcastic, the candour to the calm. He's the master who has taught two of the greatest students of all-time. Turned the "uncoachable" into the untouchable. Taking care of Chicago like Elliott Ness, guarding L.A's Hollywood stars like Kevin Costner. Blowing his way through the wind with a longevity like Dylan, walking his own way to fame.
Jackson has had a lot of different shapes to deal with in his time and he's turned them all into a beautiful triangle, whether you understand or not. From M.J. to Kobe, Scottie to Lamar, Rodman to Artest, Kukoc to Gasol, Kerr to Fisher and...erm, Longley to Shaq. No matter the talent Phil has made sure each man brought the best out of himself, whatever the frustration. Now that and the Zen calm is what made P.J. the best coach ever, day or night. Besides Phil saw Red and raised him a championship. Now that's a 10 out of 10 career.
Kobe may have promised one more championship to show his appreciation and send his coach out the right way but the Lakers broke. Still, these two guys have had an incredible journey together, with all the peaks, valleys, vestibules and alleys that you'd expect...and then some. When we all thought Phil was done-in more ways then one in 2006- it wasn't hinted at, it was stated in his best-selling, all-telling book ('The Last Season: A Team In Search Of A Soul') that his relationship with Bryant was in a state of disrepair. You would never believe in a million years that back then in just a couple of 365's these two would repair, lick their wounds, heal and at the start of this year be on the verge of a possible second three-peat and Jax's fourth overall. Sure it wasn't to be, but one thing was clear to see; Phil and Kobe's redemption was. It was all good in the end.
Whatever went on between them since the death of a dynasty has rocked every critics argument that both men and their teams had seen their best days. Whatever was said will remain between Kobe, Phil and the bait when they go fly-fishing together and reminisce down the line in years time. Still whatever was done renders his last book forgotten and somewhat obsolete (it's still a great read though). 2010 to 2011 was the 'real' last season and by changing his mind and Kobe as a player, Phil successfully re-wrote his own and his basketball second sons history. They really got it together. Thank God for the dream of Jeanie.
Jackson has proved that you can catch lightening in a bottle twice, and almost did it three times over. Decades after Kob' unlaces them one last time, the debate will rage over who was better; him or Mike. Still no one will quite know both men and have quite the qualified gospel to speak on them like Phil Jackson. He truly brought the best out of them and helped them both become the icons they are. Now that's influence, now that's inspirational. Jordan was trying to dig his way out the East with Coach Collins but he didn't win anything until he was 'Dougless'. No offence to Doug Collins, but Jackson truly understood Jordan and together they made history, season after season, after championship, after championship. You know the rest.
No man has ever been synonymous with two teams, but still regarded in his own legend like Phil Jackson. A legend on two coaches and a great role player in his on-court days for New York, Phil's always been reliable. They say the worst players make the best coaches but Coach Jackson is no average man, he's played his role to a tee as Basketballs true iron man in stark contrasts. Speaking of reliable, it looked like Jackson was moulding a successor in the form of assistant and former three-peat champion role-player Brian Shaw. Normally an inexperienced coach would raise doubts but not when he comes with the tutoring and endorsement of a sheer legend of strategy. Even though the Lakers contender reigns have been given to the greatest young coach in the game; Mike Brown, Brian Shaw and his teachings from the Zen would make a great coach there or anywhere.
Still there is no doubt there is commiseration aplenty because between the Windy City and the Californian sun, the calm and the storm, the red, purple and championship gold, the Eastern philosophy and promise and the triangle and the shape of things to come, there is, hasn't been and won't be anyone quite like Phil Jackson. Just like Shaquille O'Neal it's hard to say goodbye to such a unique and original legend-but just like the daddy in Los Angeles and all over the league-the father of coaching's legacy is set in stone and that's greater then one more 'chip. Phil Jackson may have not met Larry O'Brien this year, but he'll meet Red in the halls as a true champion.
"Since the early 1960's, I've played or coached in more than two thousand games, and I can say safely there is nothing I've experienced outside of basketball that can match its intensity, its highs and lows, its feeling of fulfilment or failure. I can't imagine what my life would have been like without it." PHIL JACKSON, 'The Last Season'.