You've heard by now the news out of El Segundo this afternoon: Phil Jackson, speaking to the media after the Lakers completed their exit interview process with the players, said he hadn't yet decided if he'll return next season but is currently "leaning towards" retirement.
I pulled a few choice quotes here, but in the few hours since his press conference ended I've been asked on the radio, via Twitter, and email if I think this is a matter of Jackson trying to best leverage his position against a lowball offer from Dr. Buss. I don't believe it is. First, the poker game, so to speak, is over. Phil won by winning another title. If there was any inclination of trying to force his hand or even making him an offer he couldn't possibly accept (like Joe Torre before he left New York, for example), it went away with the Game 7 win over Boston.
Jackson said it wasn't a question of money, Mitch Kupchak said today he didn't believe dollars would be a problem should PJ decide he's got another year in him (CLICK HERE for Kupchak's full exit interview, in which he talks about Jackson, Derek Fisher, free agency, and more). Jim Buss has expressed a desire to have Jackson back. To a man, the players want it. But more importantly, watching the videos below, Jackson is thoughtful and introspective. He speaks with the tone of a proud father when talking about this year's team and is open about the health issues at stake- not just regarding the demands of coaching, but his ability to participate fully in life as he gets older.
"I think it's an inner feeling where you assess the price of what it takes to do and how much time you have left to live and live a life that you want to lead and also, for myself, try and get in better health than I am now so I can lead an even better life," Jackson said. "Those are all things that I have to weigh. This career has been wonderful, but [it's also about] making the next one or the next phase in my life as meaningful as this has been."
I don't know if he'll retire or not, but if Jackson isn't being genuine about the possibility, he's picked up a few tricks from the giants of Hollywood lining the court at home games. I didn't find anyone in the room who believed today's interview was some sort of act.
So now we'll wait. The good news for the Lakers and their fans is Jackson has no intention of turning this into a Favre-ian "will-he-or-won't-he" ordeal. Jackson made a point of noting how unfair it would be to his players, and particularly the coaches on his staff who have shown him so much loyalty, to drag things out. But to reiterate, none of this strikes me as part of a negotiation, but rather the feelings of a guy who has been through the grind for a long time, and just doesn't know if he can get up for another run.