During 2011 playoffs, Phil Jackson told Lakers he had prostate cancer

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The last time the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs (as could happen Sunday as the Lakers trail the Spurs 3-0) it was 2011, when the Lakers were the title defenders. The Dallas Mavericks made short work of Los Angeles in the second round (and went on to win a title). After that loss, Phil Jackson walked away from the Lakers as coach.

Trying to motivate his team during that playoffs Phil Jackson told the players he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

That was not made public at the time but is part of Jackson’s book “11 Rings” that comes out in May, and was reported now by Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

Jackson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2011. After doctors assured him the cancer could be controlled by drugs temporarily, Jackson waited until after the season to undergo surgery.

Jackson decided to divulge his situation to his players when he sensed the team was lacking something in the playoffs.

“Shocking,” Pau Gasol said Saturday, remembering Jackson’s disclosure to the team. “But then you also could understand certain moments of his demeanor, energy and involvement because of what he was going through health-wise. It explained certain things. It was a shock. A difficult moment for the team.”

The revalaton may not have had the impact Jackson desired on his team — if you remember that series against Dallas the Lakers faded and got worse as it went on. The Lakers were overmatched that playoff run (they needed Andrew Bynum and didn’t have him, Kobe Bryant’s knee was gimpy) but that team just came apart and wasn’t disciplined at the end.

That revalation also explains part of why Jackson was ready to move on from the team at that point. There were certainly other factors involved, but he needed time to recover and recuperate.

That time off to get healthy (he had surgery but we don’t have a formal update on his status) would explain why he is ready to return to the game now — he feels like his old self. Not that he wants to coach, but a few teams are interested in him possibly taking on a team president kind of role.