The Lakers without their Zen Master? Phil Jackson told reporters Wednesday he's "leaning towards retiring."
It's the one scenario the Lakers don't want. They have the key pieces in place for a potential three-peat in 2010-11, but they know they need the steady hand and watchful eye of one of the greatest coaches in hoops history.
Considering how mum he's been over the last month, it was surprising to hear Jackson divulge any information about his coaching future. Each player and coach conducts an exit interview with Lakers management at the completion of a season. Upon finishing his meeting, Jackson spoke with reporters at Lakers headquarters in El Segundo, Calif.
Jackson did say this is not an official, final decision: "I'll take a week after the medical tests are done. Some of it's about health, some of it's about that's the way I feel right now. I've had vacillating feelings about it. It's hard not to feel like coming back when you're speaking to these players and have an opportunity to coach a team that's this good. But, it's what I feel like right now and what I feel like in the process that's gone through. It's just something I'm going to sit with and feel out and after I'm through talking about all the rest of it with the doctors, then I'll make the final decision."
Up until today, Jackson hasn't said anything to the media other than "I need time to consider the decision." When players were pressed for information following their own exit interviews this week, they said they didn't have any indication either way.
"I don't know," Lamar Odom said to a reporter on Tuesday. "Do you?"
Known as the Zen Master for his calming influence over out-sized egos, Lakers coach Phil Jackson typically takes a week or two after a season ends to evaluate the state of his mind and body. With about 110 games to coach throughout one season -- assuming his team reaches the NBA Finals -- the pounding on his already-aching body can be quite difficult.
Jackson, who turns 65 in September, has won more championships than any other NBA coach. This year's title -- with the Lakers beating the rival Celtics in Game 7 -- made it 11 rings for a guy Michael Jordan adored and Kobe Bryant wants back.
"I've been openly blunt," Bryant said right after winning the title. "He knows I want him back."
But now it looks like Jackson might be gone.