Sports Check

During his 14 seasons as head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson rewrote the NBA record books.

He compiled the best winning percentage, the best play-off winning percentage and most play-off wins in league history. In addition, Jackson's team won nine championships in 10 trips to the NBA Finals.

The only time his squad didn't claim the trophy was when the Detroit Pistons knocked off the Lakers at the end of the 2003-'04 season.

Jackson recounts the experience and describes the difficulties he encountered while coaching four future Hall-of-famers in his new book "The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul."

Following a signing at the Harry W. Schwartz bookstore in Shorewood, Jackson did an e-mail interview with The Tribune.

Tribune: In "The Last Season" you write "I learned how to delegate more work to my assistants, to incorporate the most useful advice I ever received about coaching came from Al McGuire, the late Marquette leader and TV analyst. "Remember, if it can't be done in eight hours,' said McGuire, whose brother, Dick, was my first coach with the Knicks, 'it can't be done.'" What is your fondest memory of Al?

Jackson: Al McGuire was the younger brother of my first coach with the New York Knicks. He had a short career in the NBA, which was built on the fact that he was a designated "(Bob) Cousy stopper." It was typical of Al that he would find a niche in the game through a gimmick.

He was a coach at St. Mary's in Vermont after his NBA career and then came to Marquette. We were friends through his brother, Dick, who was a Hall of Fame player.

Tribune: Tex Winter, your long-time assistant, is also a former Marquette head coach. What is the most useful advice you ever received from him?

Jackson: Tex and I had so many exchanges of information over 17 years together that I have a business file called 'Tex's adages.'

However, I don't think of his adages as the greatest advice he gave me, but more that he insisted that basketball should be played with a system. In that system there are principles that must be observed and Tex wrote out the Seven Principles of a Sound Offense.

He coached a summer league team for the Chicago Bulls using those principles and for two years I was his assistant. In the process, the beginnings of what became the Bulls' triangle offense began.

Tribune: Why did you decide it was best to stick with the triangle offense last season and not adjust the offense to fit the players' talents?

Jackson: The last principle in the Principles of a Sound Offense is: a sound offense has the ability to utilize the individual talents of players. For example, shots for the shooters, driving areas for drivers, post-up opportunity and offensive rebounds for rebounders.

Tribune: What do you think of former Marquette All-American Dwyane Wade? Do you feel he was well-prepared for the NBA after playing two seasons of college basketball under Tom Crean?

Jackson: I think we just have to be happy that Dwyane did play two years in college and received the basic fundamentals under coach Crean.

In "The Last Season" I make quite a point of writing about how the lack of basics is hurting the NBA. I think Dwyane is going to be a terrific player in the NBA. He now has Shaquille O'Neal to play with in Miami, which can only help him defensively and offensively.

He does need to find a consistency in his shot, but we see that a lot in young players and most of the time they learn how to shoot the ball.

Tribune: In the book you write "I started in the fall of 1989 and except for a one-year hiatus, it has been my calling ever since. I've worked with great players, great coaches, great … oh, enough reminiscing for now." Since the end of the season have you taken time to reminisce on your career and/or your final season with the Lakers? Do you have any regrets?

Jackson: I have one happenstance in that season and wonder if I could have a chance to change … It was the first meeting with Kobe Bryant in August of 2003 — our first meeting since his arrest.

I'd liked to have asked more questions and tried to get some answers, instead of respecting his privacy around the incident.

Tribune: Some people argue that you need the horses to win. Others believe that no matter how little talent a team has, the squad will win games if it has a great coach. Do you think the players or the coaches are more responsible for a team's record?

Jackson: The players have to be in place for a team to win, but they also need a coach/manager to keep them moving towards the goal of winning.

First, it takes the players and then the coach. I played on a team in New York that needed a coach to bring about the discipline and defense necessary to win.

I was the assistant coach on the Bulls and they needed a change of leadership to find a championship, but the players were in place in both those cases.

The Lakers are a prime example. In 1998 and 1999 they had the players, but needed the direction to win.

Tribune: Do you miss the game? Do you think you'll rework in basketball again?

Jackson: So, far I don't miss the game at all.