This last tour around the NBA for Phil Jackson has not really been all that filled with fanfare. Probably because he insulted every city he’s been in, then his teams went out and generally stomped the opponent. Not the way one generates a lot of love.
But Madison Square Garden, that’s different.
That’s where he played and won a title as a Knick. That was home to some epic clashes with his Chicago Bulls. That is where his Lakers have put on some shows. That’s where his Lakers are Friday night. Where he may be for the last time.
Which brings us to a great piece of reporting by Howard Beck of the New York Times to sit down with Jackson and talk about those memories.
“As many great games have been played there, I think I’ve been in a ton of them,” Jackson said Wednesday, reminiscing (but only a little) over lunch. “It’s probably the most familiar building I have in my history as a player and coach…”
New York is different — “a magical place to live,” Jackson said — and the Garden represents more than basketball. (Kobe) Bryant understands it. Over the years he has heard Jackson tell countless stories, some funny, some poignant, about his Knicks days. This trip to the Garden will be different.
“He’ll never show it because he’s always a coach that stays in the present,” Bryant said of Friday’s visit. “But I’m sure it means something to him.”
Jackson tends to come off as detached from the world, but there are things that mean a lot to him. New York does. Madison Square Garden does. And so the usual distance Jackson keeps may be closed a little tonight as his Lakers take on the Knicks.
Do yourself a favor, go read the entire NYT story. It’s great stuff.