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Thursday, April 25, 2013
Phil Jackson should go to Cleveland

By Sarah Spain

Introducing...the new head coach of youuuuur Cleveland Cavaliers, Phil Jackson!

I can see you already, shaking your heads in disbelief.

Reports have Jackson itching to get back to NBA coaching. So it makes sense that Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert would reach out to him about the team's coaching vacancy. But did you think, even for a second, Jackson would consider the job?

According to ESPN's own Chris Broussard the answer is no. Broussard reported Tuesday that Jackson has already told Gilbert he's not interested in the gig. Makes sense, right?

I mean, the great Phil Jackson -- to the Cavs? The Zen Master, who corralled his team of legends, misfits, backups and Buechlers into a pack of Cav-killers, eliminating Cleveland from the postseason three years in a row in the early 1990s -- now joining them?

A legendary leader who has never, in 20 years in the NBA, guided a team to a losing record, signing on with a Cleveland squad that makes its home below .500?

The 67-year-old multi-millionaire boasts one more championship ring than he has fingers to wear them on (three extra if you count the rings he won as a player!). Why would he come out of retirement to lead a team that has never, ever (not even once!) won it all?

Well, he's not going to take the job. But he should have.

Even if Jackson never touches a clipboard (er, iPad?) again, he will still be remembered as one of the greatest of all time. He has won more championships than any other coach in NBA history and is already a member of the Hall of Fame; he has nothing left to prove.

Except, perhaps, that he can win it all without a transcendent superstar.

The only knock anyone's ever had on Jackson is he's never won a ring without the help of either Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. He led Jordan to six championships in Chicago, then guided future first-ballot inductee Bryant to five more in Los Angeles. (And let's not forget the help he got from current and future Hall of Famers like Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Shaquille O'Neal.)

If Jackson is really dying to get back to coaching, why not take a job with a team that really needs him? Signing on with a talented squad on track to win a championship in the next few years couldn't scratch whatever itch Jackson's still got. If he wants to stoke his competitive fire, he needs to take on the kind of fight he hasn't fought before.

If Jackson's bored, he'd certainly keep himself busy figuring out how to turn around a Cleveland team that hasn't won more than 24 games since LeBron James left. And if he's looking for a chance to be challenged again, he'd certainly find a challenge in leading these Cavs.

Great coaches like Jackson have the luxury of accepting only the most appealing jobs on the market, but wouldn't it be great if one of the game's most legendary leaders took the road less traveled?

He could take a cue from former Red Sox curse-breaking GM Theo Epstein, who could have had his pick of jobs at winning franchises when he left Boston, but instead elected to put his sparkling legacy on the line with the perpetually pathetic Cubs.

Rather than rest on the historic accomplishments of his past, Epstein gave himself an even greater challenge, with an even greater reward. Ending Boston's 86-year title drought? That's nothing compared to finally ending the longest drought in professional sports.

If Jackson wants to come back to the game, the only way to add to his legacy is by doing something even more impressive than what he's already done. So how do you top three three-peats and 11 titles? Give Cavs fans their first championship. End their 43 years of heartache. Put America's most tortured sports city on top of the world for the first time since 1964, the last time a Cleveland team won a title in any of the major men's sports.

And if he can't? He'll remain one of the greatest of all time. That's what's so great about being the best ever. Jordan's years with the Wizards are all but forgotten when we remember his larger legacy. If Jackson failed to win it all in Cleveland, the same would happen. It would be a tiny chapter in the thick book of his Hall of Fame career.

Phil Jackson, the next head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It won't happen. But it should.