You Might Be Able to Sell This Book by Its Coverage

Four months after the demise of Phil, it's the Fall of Phil.

Phil Jackson is omnipresent, saturating all forms of communication this autumn. He was on the other end of the phone line Wednesday when the doorbell rang and suddenly his book was on my front step as the UPS truck sped off.

Jackson is like Obi-Wan Kenobi; they struck him down and now he's even more powerful. He certainly swiped the headlines away from the current Lakers last week with excerpts from his diary of the team's drama-filled 2003-04 season.

Now that the book is out, it's time for the full promotional blitz: "The Best Damn Sports Show" today, a stop by Jay Leno's set Friday, followed by an appearance at Vroman's in Pasadena, where he will sign copies of "The Last Season."

Perhaps that's an appropriate title, because Jackson reveals so many behind-the-scenes, inside-the-locker room conversations that it's difficult to imagine another group of players trusting him.

"I don't think it's a tell-all book," said Jackson, who was not brought back by the Lakers after his five-year contract expired in June. "There's plenty of stuff left untold. It's not about disclosure. It's about managing a team and trying to get the best out of a team. In the process there are illustrations that are pure illustrations to bring about the point. It's not about holding things back, it's about being truthful."

The Lakers, in a statement, questioned the veracity, claiming that there were "several inaccuracies" in the excerpted passages.

"I did find an inaccuracy," Jackson quipped. "There was a typo in the book that I'm going to make sure is corrected in the second printing, if there is one."

How can a coach who spent so much time -- including several instances recounted in this book -- worrying about keeping things out of the media now dump a basket of gold-and-purple dirty laundry in the street?

"It's not top-secret government stuff here," Jackson said. "This is a story that was going to be written from some standpoint. The idea that it was going to be written by journalists or people from the outside, that was OK. But the real story could be told from where I stood.... You guys are looking for inside views. This was one that I thought was as good a viewpoint as any ... and the fact it was going to be my last season."

Jackson knew he was a lame duck after he went to General Manager Mitch Kupchak in January and said, "I've had it with this kid." Word got back to Kobe Bryant, the organization's favored son, and Jackson's fate was sealed.

That's already the most famous scene to emerge from the excerpts, which painted an unflattering picture of Bryant. As a whole, the book contains more balance, with Jackson expressing admiration for Bryant's ability, and recalling instances of Bryant's unselfishness. But Jackson also made it clear there was no way he and Bryant could spend another season together.

I asked him whether his inability to connect with Bryant was the biggest regret of a coaching career that featured three championships in Los Angeles with Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal and six in Chicago with Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

"The biggest regret is not finding a way to resolve the conflict that kept Kobe and Shaq from playing as well as they could together, from being a part of team," Jackson said after a lengthy pause. "Then the team was broken up. That's probably my biggest regret, that I wasn't able to come in and heal all those wounds. I'm not a professional psychologist, even though that's a lot of times what coaches do."

He said the strain on Bryant and the franchise created by the "exacerbating situation" of the felony sexual assault charge against Bryant kept the two from bonding last season -- and ultimately kept the team from winning a championship.

In all probability, the relationship was already beyond repair.

"I think there were things that happened that were unfortunate," Jackson said. "I made a comment sometime in his second year that I regretted saying because it hurt Kobe. That was I had heard that he sabotaged games in high school. Even though I apologized for it, I think it never really reached a form where Kobe could deal with an apology in that form.

"I really think that other than that, we went on a pretty good ride, until perhaps maybe the fourth year. There were some sticky things in the fourth year. It had to do with dealing with losing and accommodating teammates. I came back with every intent of trying to find a way through that. But it never got resolved, which I kind of rue. I rue that."

Jackson has regret, but not bitterness

"I want to see the Lakers do well," Jackson said. "I want to see this team have success."

He said Jerry Buss has invited him to watch a game from his suite at Staples Center, and he plans to take him up on the offer. Jackson said he's rooting for the Lakers to play O'Neal's new team, the Miami Heat, in the NBA Finals.

He won't be sitting courtside with the ABC broadcast crew for their Christmas matchup, however, choosing to finally spend the holiday with his family.

"I'm taking a hiatus from basketball this year," Jackson said. "You won't see me on any broadcasts."

Unless he's promoting the book. In that case, he'll be on the YES Network in New York, then on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, then....

"It's going good," Jackson said. "It's going, that's for sure."

Jackson said he hoped that Laker fans would think of him not as an author but as a part of the three most recent championship teams in the franchise's glorious history.

And after the upheaval of the summer, he suggests we keep in mind a saying he used to have on his desk at the Laker offices: "Unceasing change turns the wheel of life, and so reality is shown in all its many forms."

Even hardcover, at $24.95.


J.A. Adande can be reached at To read previous columns by Adande go to

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