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Lakers Coach Phil Jackson says decision hinges on health

Back in Montana after winning his record 11th NBA championship as a coach, Phil Jackson hinted at what his plans might be while adding that watching fellow coach George Karl struggle with health issues is influencing his decision.

After giving the keynote speech at the Western Governors’ Assn. annual meeting Sunday, Jackson said his decision to return as the head coach of the Lakers hinges on his health.

“My concern, to be quite blunt, is I don’t want to happen to me what happened to Denver this year with George Karl,” Jackson said. Karl went on a leave of absence midway through last season after learning he had neck and throat cancer.

“I don’t want that to happen to the Lakers,” said Jackson, who returns to the Flathead Valley every summer “to recharge.”

“I still have some conference calls with doctors in the coming week and then I’ll give an answer pronto to my owner/boss, Jerry Buss,” the 64-year-old Jackson said.

Jackson clarified his total of NBA championship rings after being introduced by Montana Gov. Brian

Schweitzer.

“Actually, I have a couple more rings as a player, so 13 I guess is the natural number, which is a hard number to stop at when you think about it,” Jackson said before smiling. The remark brought applause from the crowd of almost 200.

sports@latimes.com

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