In the end, the chance at a fourth three-peat was too much for Phil Jackson to turn down. After flirting with retirement (again), the Lakers coach announced that he will return in 2011 for what will be his final season -- or as Jackson put it, "the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one" -- on the sidelines, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Jackson had previously told reporters that he was "leaning towards" retirement, due to health concerns and questions about whether Lakers ownership would force him to take a pay cut in 2011. But the 65-year old Jackson received a clean bill of health recently, and after contemplating his future the past three weeks in his Montana home, has apparently decided to come back for his coaching finale next season, with the Lakers likely to be prohibitive favorites in the West, if not to three-peat.
Even with Jackson's return, he and the Lakers still have a few issues to sort out. As Matt Moore of CBS Sports points out, Jackson doesn't want to travel with the team next season (the grind of NBA travel was one reason Jackson considered retirement), and might prefer to delegate road coaching duties, likely to now-heir apparent Brian Shaw. As for Shaw, his decision to spurn the Cavs after seemingly having a deal in place to become their head coach makes more sense. Indeed, not only did the uncertainty of LeBron James' future with the Cavs make that job less appealing, but with Jackson stepping down in a year, Shaw figures to be the first in line to take over what should still be a loaded Lakers team in 2012 after having apprenticed under Jackson the past five years.
Jackson has already collected an absurd 11 titles as a coach, to go with his single championship with the Knicks during his playing days. He is the winningest coach in NBA history, at least measured by titles won, after surpassing Celtics great Red Auerbach's mark of nine championships two years ago.