Retirement isn’t suiting Phil Jackson a second time any better than it did the first.
The 66-year-old former coach, who won a record 11 National Basketball Association championships with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, has mended physically since his final season in 2011 and misses the game, according to Jeanie Buss, the Lakers executive who oversees business operations and is Jackson’s girlfriend.
“When a player leaves the game, it’s just such a loss in their life,” Buss said in an interview. “Phil’s in that situation. He’s not a good person to be retired. He doesn’t build ships in a bottle.”
Jackson has spent most of his adult life in the sport. Drafted in 1967, he played 12 years with the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets, then coached the Michael Jordan-led Bulls to six championships in the 1990s, retiring for a first time after the 1997-98 season. He came back a year later to coach the Lakers, gathering five trophies with Kobe Bryant.
Jackson turned down an offer to return to the NBA in a front-office role with the Orlando Magic, the Orlando Sentinel reported on May 31, citing an intermediary, former player and coach Sam Vincent. He has decided on another opportunity, the newspaper reported.
Todd Musburger, who represents Jackson, didn’t respond to a phone call seeking comment after business hours yesterday in Chicago.
The physical ailments that slowed Jackson in his final seasons with the Lakers shouldn’t be an obstacle to his return, Buss said in the interview yesterday, at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, California.
Jackson, whose medical past includes back problems, a 2003 heart angioplasty and two hip replacements, had a knee ailment that caused him to gain weight in his final season, she said. The knee was replaced and he has lost weight, she said.
“Is he driving me crazy? Yes,” Buss said. “Physically he’s probably better than he was in the last few years. Physically I think he could, but does he want to? I have no idea.”