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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, June 19, 1999



That was zen,
this is now
for Lakers

ALL I know about zen is what I read in a book recommended to me by Russ Francis when he was All-World in the National Football League.

The book's titled, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." Francis was into riding Harleys from Montana to New Mexico back then when he wasn't jumping out of air planes or wrestling.

Clearly, he wasn't your typical football player.

Well, I had to pull the book off the shelf again after hearing that Phil Jackson - the NBA's Zen master - was hired by the Los Angeles Lakers to be their next coach.

Zen meets Showtime.

If that isn't a paradox, I don't know what is. But isn't that what Zen is? Coming to terms with paradoxes? Doing so with an intuitive illumination of mind and spirit through meditation?

Jackson faces the challenge of turning the not-so-Showtime Lakers into champions. He'll be paid big bucks for it, so the cure won't come cheap, even for owner Jerry Buss.

Zen might work in maintaining motorcycles, but will it help to repair or even fine tune the Lakers?

For sure, Shaquille O'Neal could use a little meditating at the free-throw line before casting off an attempt. And, a lot of times, Kobe Bryant needs to think twice before firing off one of his "I-know-I-can-make-it" prayer shots.

Jackson might help in that regard. His main task, though, will be massaging the egos of O'Neal and Bryant. And, who knows, maybe Jackson can persuade Dennis Rodman to get serious and come back.

But coaches, even if they're paid $7 million a year like Boston's Rick Pitino or $6 million annually, as Jackson will be compensated, don't win NBA games. Players do.

CASE in point: San Antonio. You can have Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich. I'll take Tim Duncan, and let's go one-on-one, winner take all.

Jackson might have won six NBA championships. But I think Michael Jordan, not Jackson, had more to do with the success of the Chicago Bulls.

Now if Jackson, in his infinite wisdom, can ever talk Jordan into coming out of retirement and into playing for the Lakers, then I'll go ga ga about his coaching ability, not before.

Zen philosophy might have helped. But it was Michael's mojo that really enabled the Bulls to win six world championships during the nine years Jackson coached in Chicago.

Meanwhile, let's all meditate real hard so that Jackson will think about bringing the Lakers to Hawaii for their training camp.

The Lakers haven't talked to the University of Hawaii as yet about their plans for this year. They were to train at UH last season but the camp was called off because of the strike.

"It'll probably be all up to Phil if they want to come here again," said UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida.

JOSE IT ISN'T SO. When Jose Maria Olazabal broke a bone in his right hand after punching the wall while in a snit after shooting a 75 in the first round of the U.S. Open, it assured we'll see a second face in the PGA Grand Slam.

Olazabal, who won the Masters, will be joined by the U.S. Open champion for the Poipu Bay Resort event featuring the winners of golf's four majors.

British Open and PGA Championship winners also qualify for the PGA Grand Slam on Kauai, Nov. 16-17. Olazabal will be iffy for next month's British Open, but if he can win the PGA in August that means an alternate will have to be named.

Not that alternates are bad. Tiger Woods took the alternate route to win last year's PGA Grand Slam.



Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.



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