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Basketball Mon May 27 2013

Chicago Still Loves Phil Jackson

phpm5QeTHPM.jpgI wasn't sure what to expect from Phil Jackson's Tribune Nation event last Thursday evening at Palmer House Hilton. I knew that the "Zen Master" would display his usual charisma, tell a few close-to-off-color stories, and undercut his humble nature with the occasional overestimation of his coaching ability. What the crowd would bring to the event, in both size and enthusiasm, I was less sure of. Upon my early arrival, though, I was greeted by a lot of people -- people in Bulls gear, people with Bulls tattoos, people who looked like they came straight from the 1998 championship parade.

Though Jackson had the crowd in the palm of his hand before he sat down with Tribune Bulls Beat Writer K.C. Johnson to discuss his new book Eleven Rings, he deserves credit for delighting his fans with candid stories about his championship runs as head coach of the Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson and Johnson covered a range of issues over the course of the too-brisk interview, including Jackson's future plans (he has no "intention" of coaching), his near-deal to coach the 2012-2013 Lakers (he was rejected, though we knew that), and his opinion on Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose (admires them both).

Toward the end of the interview, Johnson asked Jackson about the appeal of working in a front office. Jackson immediately brought up the triangle offense -- the style played by the championship teams in Chicago and Los Angeles -- and his feeling that it's been "denigrated" in recent years. It was the only time all night that Jackson got feisty, stating that "basketball's still basketball." While Jackson's 11 titles serve as evidence that the triangle offense can work, NBA offenses have never been so sophisticated, and teams are employing cutting-edge technology to refine their approach to putting ball in basket. The game's moving forward and the triangle offense might be in the rearview mirror.

But the crowd didn't seem put off by that or anything else Jackson said. They were there to see one of the men who made the 1990s a special decade in Chicago sports history.

Photo courtesy of Jo Chicago

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