I had the video ready to go. Uploaded to YouTube and scheduled to launch first thing Monday morning when the news went official. I went to bed that night giddy, woke up before my alarm clock the next morning, and hopped right back on the computer. I set the video to "Public," then switched over to the Twitter feed, ready to revel in some much needed Laker love.
"Lakers hire Mike D'Antoni."
My jaw hit the floor, like I'd been punched in the gut. I switched the video back to "Private."
"Are you kidding me?" I'm pretty sure I said to myself. "Are you f*%$ing kidding me?"
Knicks fans, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. Because I know what you're feeling. The excitement and anticipation steadied by a sense of purpose and hope. I felt it first on the verge of the ‘99-00 season, fresh off two consecutive early playoff failures. Then again in 2006 in the midst of a chaotic post-Shaq rebuild. And I was so ready for that third go-round.
Because here’s the thing. When you hear that Phil Jackson is coming to man the helm of your beloved hometown team it’s not just about the championships. It’s about something deeper. Something far more rare. You see it now in the eyes of Carmelo, and even you dear Knicks fans, talking about how you feel now that Phil’s on his way. You’ve already bought-in.
There’s probably no one in organized professional sports history that can do this better than Phil Jackson. No one that can assemble and galvanize a team, an entire city around the simultaneously singular and selfless pursuit to be the best. I think that’s why we love him so much here in L.A. Because as much as we Angeleños are caricatured as spoiled front-runners, we cherish our Lakers because they unite us. And that was something you sensed Phil owned and honored. We, as fans, were always part of that sacred journey.
I'd been binging on books like "Ishmael," "Zen Mind, Beginner Mind," "The Celestine Prophecy," "Awakening the Buddha Within," "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" my freshman year at Berkeley when I finally came across "Sacred Hoops." And it came as a bit of a revelation.
I'd played competitive volleyball since the seventh grade, and was pretty serious about it too. Serious enough to transfer high schools junior year from a Division 3 to a Division 1 school. Started on a team that made it to the championship match of the National Junior Olympics. But throughout, athletics had been about winning, about achievement. The lessons of "Sacred Hoops," that a team at its core should be motivated by selflessness, by love, that nurturing the spirit of every team member was critical to the health and success of that team, that winning was a by-product of this philosophy in action blew my impressionable 18-year-old mind.
I've been a fan ever since.
The question still remains. If you're Lakers ownership (1/2 of whom is getting married to the man), how in the h$#! do you let Phil Jackson slip through your fingers?
In the days, weeks, and months to come, there will be plenty of scrutiny about whether Phil can succeed in his new role in the front office. And there will be plenty of people rooting for him to fail. But there's even something uniquely spectacular about Phil's failures - I'm thinking about Andrew Bynum's clothes-lining of J.J. Barea in Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference Semis, and pretty much the whole '03-'04 season.
Either way, I'll be tuned-in. And I'm assuming you will be too.
Because with Phil, the story's always too good to ignore.