The Hall of Famer, who has won 10 championship rings as a coach, is sitting atop the Western Conference standings with a 54--19 record
Dan Patrick:Did you fill out an NCAA bracket this year?
Phil Jackson: No, I did not. I don't know enough about college basketball to fill out a bracket, and I feel kind of out of the curve as far as these young players. But I've enjoyed the tournament.
DP:When you watch college basketball, are you paying attention to the coaching or is it just entertainment?
PJ: You can't help it. Even if I watch football, I'm into the coaching aspect.
DP:Is it tougher to coach someone who's 18 or someone who's 22?
PJ: Well, we always say that once habits are established, it takes a lot of work to get rid of the bad habits. I don't know if kids have bad habits at 18. I know they do at 22. We get a lot of kids who we have to reteach how to pass the ball.
DP:Kobe is a free agent this off-season. Is it a foregone conclusion that he'll end his career as a Laker?
PJ: I have no idea. I haven't really talked with Kobe. I just understand that the odds are always better for guys to stay where they're at. Especially if they're successful and they've had a good run.
DP:Would you ever coach for Michael Jordan now that he is buying the Bobcats?
PJ: I can't see myself picking up and leaving to go back East.
DP:How would he be as an owner?
PJ: Oh, he'd be great. He'd be hands-on. There's no doubt he's going to be involved.
DP:Why is it so tough to repeat?
PJ: [Playoff] games are, like twice the effort that you put into other games. Players play longer minutes. There are injuries in the playoffs that players have to play through, the ones you can't play through in the regular season. And teams come apart. The personalities get worn out on each other. The coaches lose contact with the [players]. San Antonio has never been able to repeat. And this is a well-coached team that has kept their unit together. It's been little things, like a knee injury one year.
DP:It seems like [San Antonio coach Gregg] Popovich is at his best this time of the year, when we're getting near the postseason. Is that the team you see in your rearview mirror and worry about?
PJ: Without a doubt.
PJ: We're impressed with Dallas. They're still coming together as a team; they haven't gotten everything figured out yet. And with [Kenyon] Martin back on the floor, Denver has got a real potent eight-man group. They're a highly volatile team—they can run off a lot of points quickly, and they can also fall into malaise, too, at times.
DP:When will you decide if you're coming back next season?
PJ: The end of the year, obviously. The success or failure of the team is related to that.
DP:So if you're in the Finals, you're more than likely returning?
PJ: There's a good chance of it.
DP:And if you don't make the Finals....
PJ: I'd have to think long and hard about it, because I think we only have five guys coming back off this roster.
DP:Have you given thought to going out on top and retiring as a champion?
PJ: I hold that option. That's for sure.
If Mavericks forward Caron Butler looks to be in better shape of late, it's probably because he recently kicked his seven-bottle-a-day Mountain Dew habit cold turkey. "I went through a lot [of withdrawal]," he told me. "Sweating. Headaches. I lost 11 pounds as well. It worked out for the best. I feel much better."
NFL owners decided to change the league's overtime rule for the playoffs after Brett Favre and the Vikings didn't make it to the Super Bowl. I don't like it. Coaches won't have a chance to get used to the rule during the season, when the stakes aren't as high, so you're asking them to experiment with all of the marbles on the line. The game that put the NFL on the map, the 1958 championship between the Colts and the Giants, was sudden death, and the system has worked well ever since. Not everything in life has to be improved—especially when the "improvements" detract from something that was fine to begin with.
Line of the week
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said that in Pat Summitt's 36 years coaching the Lady Vols, she has had 10 players who could have made the men's team: "I guarantee Candace Parker wouldn't have just made my roster; she would have started for us at Tennessee."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Cornell's Ryan Wittman on the team's remarkable tourney run.
2. Kevin Love on who has it worse: his T-Wolves or the Nets.
THE FINE PRINT: Nice touch by CBS. The network plans to dedicate One Shining Moment to the guy who selects the material for Bob Huggins's track suits.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PATRICK)
ALBERT PENA/ICON SMI (BUTLER)
NAM Y. HUH/AP (PEARL)
ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (JACKSON)