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Phil Jackson will return to coach the Lakers

"Count me in," Jackson says Thursday in announcing he will lead the Lakers in their quest for a third consecutive title.

July 01, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

After further review, Phil Jackson will be back.

A week after saying he was "leaning toward retiring," the Lakers' coach said he would return for his 11th season with the franchise.

"Count me in," Jackson said Thursday. "After a couple of weeks of deliberation, it is time to get back to the challenge of putting together a team that can defend its title in the 2010-11 season. It'll be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one."

Jackson, who will be 65 in September, retreated to his summer Montana home, cleared his mind and reached his decision with the help of some favorable medical news.

He seemed to be in his final days with the Lakers when he last met with media members on June 23, saying he was concerned about his health and fatigued by the NBA's travel schedule.

Now, though, he'll have a chance to coach the Lakers to a third consecutive title, a move to be met with overwhelming approval by players who unilaterally stumped for him during interviews with reporters after their exit meetings.

Jackson received favorable news after undergoing a battery of medical tests that began four days after the Lakers won their 16th championship, skipping the team's championship parade in order to check his overall health. He has had both hips replaced, has a sore knee, has kidney stones and had an angioplasty procedure to repair an artery in 2003. Among other things, his knee will not need to be replaced, which Jackson was relieved to hear.

A father of five grown children and a number of grandchildren, Jackson mentioned the importance of family when he said he was leaning toward retirement, saying he was starting to ponder "how much time you have left to live," but ultimately deciding to coach at least one more season.

In the months leading up to the Lakers' 16th championship, he was coy in his decision-making process, never quite revealing which way he would go when his two-year, $23-million contract expired June 30.

After a 91-75 loss to Oklahoma City late in the regular season, he questioned a return while talking to The Times, saying that "If [players] don't respond, you say, 'No, this isn't the time for me to continue coaching.' "

And yet, less than an hour after the Lakers defeated Boston to win their 16th championship, Jackson said "it does improve my chances" of returning.

A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Jackson is the longest-tenured coach in Lakers' history. He has been the coach of 11 of the last 20 NBA champions, including six with the Chicago Bulls.

In 19 seasons as an NBA coach, Jackson has a record of 1,098-460, good for a .705 winning percentage that is the best in league history.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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