Jackson may be the Zen Master, but he’s still a hypocrite

Nov 13 2012 - 8:43pm

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One of the great things about America is that possibilities are virtually endless and anyone can become anything.

For instance, an ex-hippie hoopster can become the greatest coach the NBA has ever known, amassing a personal fortune estimated to be around $45 million, all while cultivating a reputation as an anti-establishment Zen Master.

Must be nice to be Phil Jackson, huh?

Jackson, whose 11 NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers are the most all-time among head coaches, very nearly came out of retirement this week. In fact, if the rumors are true, he was all set to do so after the Lakers fired coach Mike Brown last Friday.

Jackson's name remains in the news today, not because the Lakers convinced him to return to the fold after their awful start to the season, but because they instead hired ex-Suns and Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni to a $12 million deal.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Jackson met with Lakers' vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak last weekend to discuss his returning to the team. However, Kupchak phoned Jackson around midnight Sunday, informing him the team had opted to go with D'Antoni, 61.

According to numerous reports, Jackson was "stunned" the Lakers offered D'Antoni the job instead of him.

If that sounds a tad arrogant, so be it. Given his gaudy resume, highlighted by those 11 championships, he doesn't need to apologize for his success, his money or the fact he's widely regarded as the greatest coach in NBA history.

However, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports, Jackson had other motives in wanting the Lakers' job, motives that hardly seem to jibe with peace, harmony and Zen mastery.

In the Yahoo! report, a source with knowledge of the discussions said, "Phil wanted Jim Buss to walk away with his tail between his legs. He thought he had time to still negotiate with them and see how much they would give him."

Wait! What?

We're still talking about the Zen Master, right? We're still talking about a child of the 60s who has admitted to smoking pot and taking LSD and who made headlines a few years ago with a wry joke about using peyote? We're still talking about a guy who, politically speaking, is decidedly left-of-center and more in line with Occupy Wall Street than he is the power mongering "one percent," right?

And yet ...

And yet, if we're to believe the reports ­-- which Jackson's agent has denied but other sources have confirmed -- I'm 99 percent certain this makes him a hypocrite.

Look, I've got no problem with him having strong political views. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion and I'd never begrudge him that. Well, sure, he's come off a bit smarmy over the years, making condescending cracks about places like Utah, New Orleans, Oklahoma, Sacramento and Memphis. But I've also got no reason to believe he hasn't given a great deal of his time and money to charity.

No, the problem is with this silly media-driven idea that Jackson's some sort of a new-age philosopher/basketball-loving Shaman, set out to preach inner peace, outward harmony and, of course, the triangle offense.

We get it: he's guru, all about finding the spiritual balance between flip-flops and high-tops.

Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. But for crying out loud, can we please stop pretending this guy isn't filthy rich and every bit as egotistical and power hungry as a fat-cat corporate CEO ... or the Hollywood elites who sit courtside at Laker games?

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at jburton@standard.net. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247

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