Phil Jackson is a legend of the coaching profession—not just in basketball, but of all sports. He holds the NBA record for most titles won as a head coach with 11. His impeccable resume manning the bench for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers led directly to his enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Now, Jackson has a new job as President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks. But questions about a possible return to the bench simply refuse to die.
A TMZ reporter caught up with Jackson and his fiancee, Lakers governor Jeanie Buss, and told the basketball legend that many people believe he'd be more effective as the Knicks head coach.
Jackson replied: "Probably so. But I can't do it ... It's not part of the contract, it's part of my physical capabilities."
The "physical capabilities" he is referring to undoubtedly relate to his history of knee problems. Jackson underwent successful knee replacement surgery in March of 2012, one year after his final season coaching the Lakers.
Earlier this season, the 68-year-old Jackson made it clear during an extended interview with his former player (and current NBA TV personality Rick Fox) that those health problems were likely to keep him from ever coaching again:
Physically I have to reconcile the fact that I'm in a position where, after five operations in three years, four years...recovering from operations is difficult enough. When you're a kid, you can do it relatively easily, as we did when we were players, but at my age it takes a little bit more to recover from it. And then health becomes the priority.
Traveling, late nights, being up and down the court, which is really something that's important to me as a coach—I coached my last year from a bench at midcourt because I couldn't get up and down the court, and I knew it was time to leave.
Would a healthy Jackson prove a better coach of the Knicks than their current lamest of ducks, Mike Woodson? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean he can physically hold up to the demands of the profession.
So who will President Jackson choose to replace Woodson in the offseason? Peter Vecsey brought up an intriguing candidate in current Iowa State University coach Fred Hoiberg:
While Steve Kerr appears 2B in Phil Jackson's sights to replace Mike Woodson, educated instincts tell me Fred Hoiberg will be first choice— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) March 28, 2014
Whoever takes the job, it will undoubtedly be a younger, healthier man than Jackson. The Zen Master does not need to add to his coaching resume; he's now taking on the even more daunting challenge of building a winning team in New York.