The Zen Master has returned.
Phil Jackson, the 11-time NBA Champion as a head coach, will not be gracing the Los Angeles Lakers sidelines anytime soon. However, as the team climbs its way back into championship contention, the NBA legend returned to the team he helped guide to five titles on Wednesday afternoon.
Jackson was spotted at the team's practice facility in El Segundo during the team's shootaround before heading out on a four-game road trip. According to reports, it was the first time in more than two years Jackson had visited the facility.
Despite the lengthy absence, ut shouldn't come as that big of a surprise that Jackson was spotted around the Lakers. Not only did he coach the Lakers from 1999-2004 and again from 2005-2011, but he famously was engaged to Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss until they announced their split in December of 2016.
Jackson is also good friends with Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson, as well as Kurt Rambis, the team's current senior basketball adviser.
Additionally, Jackson was the coach and mentor for current Lakers head coach Luke Walton, who played for Jackson in nine of his 11 years as a player in the league.
"I have not talked to Phil today, no, but if that's him, I'll head upstairs," said Walton when asked by the media on Wednesday if he'd seen or spoken to Jackson yet. "…Even the one year I semi-retired, Phil's someone I like to stay in constant communication with."
One player that might have avoided Jackson is Lakers superstar LeBron James. It's unknown if Jackson spoke to James, but the two have a somewhat contentious relationship after Jackson referred to James and his longtime friends and business parnters as a "posse." James said he was offended by the comments.
Jackson was last in the league as the President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks. The 73-year-old signed a five-year, $60 million contract in 2014, but was fired after just three seasons.