Next stop for the Zen Master

His team swept out of the playoffs, humiliated in a season-ending debacle in Dallas, Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Sunday took a pre-retirement swipe at NBA commissioner David Stern that may have been a Freudian slip.

Noting the $35,000 fine Stern levied because he had criticized the officiating in the Western Conference semifinals against the Mavericks, Jackson channeled his inner politician.

“It’s not fun having a feeling like I’ve been chased down the freeway,” he said. “But, as Richard Nixon said, ‘You won’t be able to kick this guy around anymore.’ ”

Presidential historians will note Nixon famously told reporters they “won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore,” after losing the California gubernatorial election in 1962.

Six years later, he was elected president of the United States.

Jackson twice has stepped away from coaching, only to return to great success. He is 65 years old, but Hubie Brown was 69 when he came out of retirement in 2002 and led the Grizzlies into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, earning Coach of the Year honors.

After Sunday’s loss in Dallas, the most successful playoff coach in league history said, “All my hopes and aspirations are that this is the final game I will coach.”

Now, he will head to his wilderness home in Montana, which prompted Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle to speculate that it won’t be long before he wants to return to coaching: “I don’t know how long you can go to Montana and meditate and smoke peyote, or whatever he does there.”

Those whose pipe dreams include another return to the bench by Jackson should check out Express-News NBA writer Mike Monroe’s assessment of Jackson’s future career path.


In 1995, Jackson authored “Sacred Hoops” for Hyperion. In the book, Jackson explains his “thoughtful approach to nurturing a positive group dynamic,” according to the book jacket. All that idle time in the beauty of Montana’s mountains ought to inspire another literary effort.

Odds: 1 to 5


With Donnie Walsh returning as general manager, Mike D’Antoni will get a chance to start the 2011-12 season as Knicks head coach, but he will be on a short leash. If the Knicks get off to a slow start next season, their fans will be howling for a change. Jackson won his first championship rings as a member of the 1970 and 1973 Knicks. Guess who the Knicks fans and media will be insisting replace D’Antoni?

Odds: 5-1


Assistant Brian Shaw is the frontrunner for the vacancy Jackson’s retirement will create, but he never has been a head coach. Should he get the job and not find traction, don’t be surprised if Kobe Bryant doesn’t lean on club management to reach out to Jackson for a third go-around as head coach.

Odds: 8-1


Pat Riley didn’t spend all the Micky Arison money on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to not bring championships to South Beach. Should the Heat fail under Erik Spoelstra, would Riley forget all the sparring he once engaged in with Jackson when the Bulls and Knicks were Eastern Conference rivals? Anyone who knows Riley well doesn’t see it happening. More likely: A Riley move back to the bench if the Heat don’t have a title by June 2012.

Odds: 18-1

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