Some trains are never late.
The second the Lakers were officially dead and buried for this season, Phil Jackson ostensibly became a former NBA coach ready to move on to a quiet life in Montana. But what he really became was the great big ghost looming over the shoulder of every coach with a team that isn't quite reaching expectations.
That process has already started. Tuesday's Posthas a report quoting a source saying that Phil would be open to returning to a team in the right situation.
Let's say the Chicago Bulls can't find their way past the Hawks this year and next year's team also falls short of the promised land, you don't think some people would want a return from the Zen Master to harness Derrick Rose's limitless potential? Or how about Oklahoma City, where it seems Scott Brooks hasn't got a clue about making Russell Westbrook see that it is better to complement Kevin Durant than try to compete with him.
And, of course, there are the Knicks. It will be the team most affected by the specter of a Jackson return to the sidelines.
That's because of Jackson's history with the team (once a Knick, always a Knick?), the heightened expectations created by the arrivals of Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony and the healthy urban egotism that makes us believe that every big star in every field wants to play on our stage before they shuffle off the mortal coil. That last thing is what forces us into these dances even when we know they make no sense at all.
Why would Jackson, at 65 and with 11 titles already, want to submit to working for James Dolan? Why would a man who looked as worn down as Jackson looked on Sunday want to throw himself into a daily fire even greater than he experienced in Chicago and Los Angeles?
It's not money, certainly, and it is hard to imagine he feels the need to prove anything to anyone at this point in the game. Even assuming there's some part of him that would want to bring the team their first title since Red Holzman, a man he deeply admires, it still feels like a real long shot.
Neither the Knicks nor their fans should be any more into this courtship than Jackson. Isn't everyone tired of pining away for the next thing?
First it was LeBron, then it was Carmelo and now it is some combination of Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Phil Jackson. Feel free to throw Doc Rivers into the mix once he leaves the Celtics after this season.
The players are one thing, but shouldn't there be a move coming right now if we're all so convinced Mike D'Antoni isn't the right coach for this team? Wasting one more season on pipe dreams and fantasies should fill you with dread.
But, like we said up top, some trains are never late. You'll hear more about Jackson this year than in any year he actually wore a Knicks uniform.