Getting a read on Phil Jackson through ‘Laker Girl’
I feel as if I have slept with Phil Jackson.
As you know, we’ve already become much closer, but now I can visualize what it must be like to roll around unable to sleep after a Lakers loss.
And there are those crazy nights when Phil steals the pillow right out from under your head because he thinks it’s the ball.
I love reporters who are on top of the job and telling us things we don’t know, which is why I’m so disappointed in our Lakers scribes.
They have only one job in life: to tell us everything about the Lakers. So how come they haven’t told us about Jackson’s dreams, the shot clock going off and it’s really the alarm clock, Jackson awakening upset because he never got the shot off in time.
Why is it that we always have to wait for the book to come out to really know what’s going on with the Lakers?
This time around it’s “Laker Girl,” Jeanie Buss’ reflection on a life well-lived as well as an adoring tribute to the men in her life, her father and her boyfriend.
“I can’t tell you how many times he’s elbowed me like he’s going up for a rebound,” Jeanie tells us. “I should probably wear a whistle to bed.”
What do we get from our Lakers guys other than Walton injury updates and letters to Donald Sterling?
“Upon arriving at the arena [for Game 7 against Boston], we always part at the door to the locker room,” Jeanie writes. “We kiss and then Phil walks in.”
I can only assume our guys were off eating somewhere and missing this scene.
“Tonight,” she continues in her book, “he just turned to walk away. ‘You are not going to kiss me?’ I said.
“I think he felt funny because there were so many more people around than usual. But he walked back and gave me the kiss.
“You are going to stay and be here for me afterward, aren’t you?” he said.
“Absolutely,” I replied. “I’ll be here no matter what happens.”
Tell me right now there isn’t a lump in your throat.
When I think of what our Lakers coverage should be, I’m reminded of the scene in " Hoosiers”, Coach Norman Dale telling guard Buddy Walker, “Stick with your man. Think of him as chewing gum. By the end of the game, I want you to know what flavor he is.”
Later in the game, Walker is able to tell his coach, “Dentyne.”
So how come we have to learn from Jeanie one of Phil’s favorite TV shows is “Dexter” but he has to turn away at one point because one of his friends, John Lithgow, is playing a disturbing part.
Of the three Times scribes assigned to know things like this, Brad Turner is probably the most disappointing. He sends a carrot cake to the Lakers last Christmas, as we learn in “Laker Girl,” and Jackson eats it.
“See this proves that not all members of the media are bad,” Jeanie tells Phil.
She also goes on to say, “The way to gain favor with Phil is through his sweet tooth.”
It sounds as if Turner’s effort to kiss up to Jackson is successful, but instead of calling Turner three times a day, or ever calling Turner, he’s almost in constant communication with Jeanie.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m feeding the dog or if I just walked in the door of if I’ve got my hands full of groceries,” she writes. “He’s got to vent to me right then and there [following a tough loss on the road]. He’ll call the house phone, and he’ll call the cell phone and he’ll keep calling until he reaches me.
“Sometimes he’ll be sitting on the team bus or the plane surrounded by people so he really can’t say anything, but he’s still mad. It’s almost like we have to listen to each other breathe.”
“Laker Girl” is co-written with former Times reporter Steve Springer, but I don’t recall him ever writing like that, so most of it must be Jeanie.
It’s as much a diary of the Lakers’ championship run last season as a story of a young girl growing up to be a successful executive even though she once dated a hockey player — raising questions about her judgment.
Her admiration for her parents runs deep throughout “Laker Girl,” and it’s tough to say who changed more, Jeanie or Michael Jackson in one of the book’s pictures.
Michael Jackson or Phil Jackson?
“Phil is like a gigantic sore thumb, standing out wherever he goes,” she writes, and I can only imagine how she might have described the other Jackson.
Beyond her good looks and agreeable personality, she’s the No. 1 straight shooter in town. And so she writes she’s concerned her dad might be talking to Byron Scott about replacing Jackson. She thinks it’s a mistake.
She’s thrilled, of course, when Phil returns. And a ring interests her more than ever — another championship ring.
“I know Phil and I are never going to be married,” she writes. “I don’t think I’ll ever be married again. Phil is planning to leave the Lakers at the end of [this] season and that means he will probably have to leave me as well. I know I cannot move to his retirement home in Montana, nor do I see him staying in a big city like Los Angeles.
“I am a working girl and the Lakers are my employer, which means my life is here.”
But why do I get the feeling it’s no slam dunk this is going to be Phil’s last year?
Better buy a carrot cake and see what I can get out of him.