LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Phil Jackson began a brand-new chapter in his life on Thursday with vague plans to travel the world on a motorcycle after ending his career as the most successful coach of all time in the NBA.
Four days after his twice defending champion Los Angeles Lakers were embarrassingly swept from the second round of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks, Jackson looked forward to fresh challenges.
However the avuncular 65-year-old who is renowned for his professorial demeanor and laidback approach has not ruled out a possible NBA comeback should he be summoned in the future.
Twice before, Jackson has left the league vowing never to coach again, only to return after taking a year’s break.
“Today I‘m sure. What it’s going to be like in six months, who knows?” Jackson told reporters at the Lakers training base in El Segundo when asked if he was certain he would not coach again.
There is no question, though, that the silver-haired ‘Zen Master’ of basketball has thoroughly deserved a lengthy break from the rigors of the NBA.
His largely successful Lakers have competed in 77 grueling playoff games over the last four years and Jackson had to be tempted back to coach the team this season for what he described as his last stand.
“It’s been a remarkable run, everybody knows that and it was a devastating loss,” he said, referring to the 4-0 sweep from the playoffs by the Mavericks.
“We have to accept that and move forward as a team. They know that they have to find a way to build that chemistry back that makes a team move in the right direction as one.”
Whether or not Jackson ever returns to the NBA, he can reflect on a remarkable career as head coach that has yielded a record 11 championship rings -- six with the Chicago Bulls and five with the Lakers.
“Talent wins,” Jackson said of his success. “When you have talent to coach, it makes all the difference in the world. I’ve coached some of the best talent that’s ever played the game.”
Born in Montana to evangelical minister parents, Jackson is renowned for his “Zen” philosophy and his triangle offense, a complicated but highly successful strategy that relies upon committed team work.
Using the triangle or triple-post offense, he transformed a Chicago team built around the brilliant individual talent of Michael Jordan into six-time NBA champions between 1991 and 1998.
He also adapted the strategy around a dominant center, Shaquille O‘Neal, to help the Lakers win three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-2002.
“The system is far too intricate to be mastered in a short period of time which is why repetition is essential,” Jackson wrote in his 2004 book The Last Season.
“On average, players need a couple of years to grasp the triangle’s complexities,” he said of a system in which constantly moving players have a variety of passing and scoring options at their disposal.
“Michael Jordan, superb as he was, did not win a ring until he and his team mates discovered how to excel consistently within the parameters of the triangle. Championships are secured by team, not individual, performances.”
Asked whether he felt the Lakers should continue using the triangle offense in the post-Jackson era, he replied: ”There are four or five players that really know how to work it pretty well.
“There were players that struggled with it ... but there are always going to be players that aren’t into execution. This is something that cost us in the end result (against Dallas), an inability to execute when we needed to.”
As for his retirement, Jackson looked forward mainly to planning a few adventurous journeys around the world.
“I was a kid that liked to read Robinson Crusoe and the last time I had a year off I traveled to the South Pacific, but I realized on that trip I was not physically capable of that kind of adventure,” he said.
“Maybe I’ll get back to those kinds of things, the adventure part. One of my favorites is a guy ... who traveled the world, east to west and north to south, on a motorcycle. Those are the kinds of things that interest me.”
Editing by Frank Pingue