Report: Phil Jackson Had Cancer During 2011 Playoff Run, Told Lakers to Try to Motivate Team

by NESN Staff

April 30, 2013

Phil JacksonWin one for the Gipper this was not.

Phil Jackson had extra reason for his team to play its heart out in 2011 when the Lakers were going for a third championship in a row. But even the Hall of Fame coach revealing that he had cancer and was putting off treatment until after the playoffs wasn’t enough to push his team to greater heights, Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register reports. Jackson revealed the story in his book 11 Rings, which is due out in May.

Jackson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2011 and put off surgery “after doctors assured him the cancer could be controlled by drugs temporarily,” Ding reports. Jackson then told the Lakers what was going on “when he sensed the team was lacking something in the playoffs.”

Jackson’s news did not have the desired effect, however. After rolling through the first round of the playoffs and posting a 12-1 record that March, the Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in a series that had Metta World Peace, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum all getting booted from games. The rocky end of the year was also the end of Jackson’s time in L.A.

Pau Gasol said Jackson’s news shook the team.

“Shocking,” he said. “But then you also could understand certain moments of his demeanor, energy and involvement because of what he was going through health-wise. It explained certain things. It was a shock. A difficult moment for the team.”

Perhaps that’s something to keep in mind for coaches looking to jolt players with information they hope will inspire them. Jackson may be the gold standard of the NBA, but when it comes to using life-changing news to push players, Chuck Pagano and the Colts appear to be even more exceptional than everyone thought.

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