With all that I have heard and read about the Lakers and how they mishandled the Phil Jackson reunion tour, I have yet to hear anybody talk about what it was like when Jackson and the Lakers last parted ways.
It's easy to say the Lord of the 11 Rings is a better coach than Mike D'Antoni. Nobody disputes that. But is he a better fit at this late point in his career?
I'm not so sure, and I base that on evidence -- not a gut feeling. I mean, it's as if everyone in L.A. has collective amnesia. Yes, it's true, nobody can match Phil Jackson's jewelry collection, especially when you consider Red Auerbach is dead.
But let's journey back to that discomforting spring of 2011. That was the last time Phil Jackson coached the Lakers and, let me remind you, the Jackson/Lakers final goodbye scene was pure acrimony.
I'm not just talking about the ego clash between the Buss Boys and PJ. I'm pointing at the dreary product that slithered off the court in Dallas. The Lakers gave up under Phil Jackson when they lost to the Mavericks 4-0. Gave. Up. As in, quit.
Do you really want a guy to come back when the players quit on him during the last go around?
Phil Jackson once told me about a lesson his preacher-father imparted on him years ago. The elder Jackson said, sometimes a preacher has to know when to move churches. After awhile, the congregation stops listening to you.
The congregation had stopped listening, and Phil knew it was time. We all saw it. But now, about a year and a half later, we immediately talk about the 11 rings and Phil Jackson's brilliance. Why aren't we also talking about what this team last played like under Phil? It was bad and it was ugly.
Phil Jackson didn't lead the Lakers to a championship in his final season. Not even close.
You might say that it would be different now. You might say it was caused by a salary dispute with Jim Buss. You might say the Lakers have Dwight Howard and Steve Nash now. You might say that Jackson's problem was with Andrew Bynum -- or that Bynum was cancerous.
Any of these may be the case, but this question should be addressed by all those crying over no Phil Jackson (including Magic Johnson): Why did the team quit on PJ the last time he was here and what would prevent it from happening again?
Bottom line: If you're going to talk about the 11 rings, you also have to talk about the 2010-11 Lakers and their Jackson-led flameout in the NBA playoffs.