Phil Jackson is one cocky son of a bitch.
Wait. Put down the pitchforks and extinguish the torches. I mean that in the best way possible. Please, allow me to explain.
To succeed in athletics, particularly on a very high level, there's a certain amount of arrogance that is necessary. You have to believe you are the best and be able to visualize your on the court (or field) dominance before it ever becomes a reality.
The greats have always had that oversized chip on their shoulder. Jordan, Bird, Kobe, Lebron -- all nice guys in their own right, but on the court, they all have had reputations for being demanding teammates who accepted nothing less than perfection and physical sacrifice from their respective colleagues on the floor.
Coaches aren't that different.
Teams and players feed off their coaches. If the coach is calm and confident, most of the time, the team will be able to morph into that image and use that confidence to help achieve their goals.
Don't get it twisted. Confidence doesn't make up for a lack of talent, but when you add the two things together, you have a scary combination capable of conquering giants and winning championship trophies.
Phil Jackson has always had that extra "oomph." He's a genius with x's and o's, but his legacy has always been more than that. He has a kind of swagger that is infectious.
In an interview in 1996, Jackson said:
"I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you're doing. You have to be a salesman and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you're trying to accomplish on the basketball floor."
In The Last Season, Jackson also said:
"I thrive on challenges, and there is no more imposing challenge for someone in my profession than winning an NBA title."
So, as a 67-year old man, where does "The Zen Master" find that challenge that used to be what fueled his engine? And do we really believe that a man who made his living by shaping men, molding minds and winning championships isn't haunted every day by the fact that his last on court experience was on the wrong side of a 4-0 sweep by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Western Conference Semifinals?
Sure, the guy has enough accomplishments to wash away that hurt and then some, but the sour taste absolutely has to linger in his mouth.
It bothers him. It absolutely has to. Quite frankly, it would be disappointing if it didn't.
Will Jackson be remembered as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, regardless of what happens with this year's Los Angeles Lakers team? Absolutely. But if Phil's phone rings this weekend, and he's offered the opportunity to coach all-stars Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, along with former all-star Metta World Peace -- all at the same time -- I believe he'll say yes.
He has to say yes.
It's the opportunity to go out on top, to wash the sour taste out of his mouth, and to remind everyone, once and for all, that Phil Jackson isn't just in the conversation for being the greatest NBA coach of all time, he's the introduction, the main topic of discourse and the summary.
The rest is ancillary. Forget about this talk of whether or not Jackson will be able to teach a fairly new group his triangle offense on the fly. Cast off the idea that he won't be able to make it work with this many rock-star egos.
He's done it before. He'll do it again.
Believe me...he will do it again.