It's a one-year plan for Phil Jackson - and for the Chicago Bulls.
"Long term is something that right now I don't want to discuss, because one year is about what I have to give," Jackson said Thursday after signing a contract to remain Chicago's coach for the 1996-97 season. "And it's quite obvious that this team has a limitation of age."Two of the oldest Bulls are Michael Jordan, 33, and Dennis Rodman, 35. They also might be the two main reasons Chicago just won its fourth NBA championship in six years.
So now that Jackson's deal is done, it's time for the Bulls to focus on keeping those free-agents-to-be in white and red uniforms.
"We intend to work very hard to sign Michael and Dennis, and keep this team intact," general manager Jerry Krause said. "Our goal is to get another championship and let the future take care of itself."
Jackson, the NBA's coach of the year in 1995-96 and holder of league winning-percentage records for both the regular season (.721) and playoffs (.723), said his contract provided a wonderful ending to perhaps the best season in NBA history.
"As we shook hands around the room last night," he said at Thursday's news conference, "we said, `Now Chicago can exhale and enjoy the championship. When Michael and Dennis get signed, we can again exhale and enjoy what comes up next year."'
Jackson refused to say if his contract contains language stipulating that the team re-sign Jordan and Rodman. But the coach did say he spoke recently with Jordan "for some duration about his intent to come back."
Both Jordan and Rodman had said they wouldn't return unless Jackson did. Unlike Jackson, they both have expressed interest in multiyear contracts.
Jackson's one-year deal, reportedly for about $2.5 million, "is exactly what I wanted." He didn't want to make a commitment past next year, when twin sons Ben and Charlie graduate from high school.
Besides, he said, "I've always said there's a certain amount of time a coach has to work with this game and the stress factor."
Jackson, in fact, thought the season just ended would be his last. But that was before the league-record 72 regular-season victories, the playoff triumphs over Miami, New York and Orlando and the six-game conquest of Seattle in the NBA Finals.
"I thought it was going to be the farewell tour this year because it was my seventh," said Jackson, a proponent of Zen philosophy who thinks life cycles last seven years. "But this team came together in such a way that it was impossible to walk away."
Jackson, 50, has a 414-160 regular-season record. He is 81-31 in the playoffs. His Bulls also won titles in 1991, 1992 and 1993.
His base salary was a middle-of-the-pack $866,000 for the just-completed season, but he'll become the league's third-highest paid coach in 1996-97. Miami's Pat Riley and New Jersey's John Calipari will make $3 million; both also act as their teams' GMs.
Bulls players were excited that Jackson is returning.
"It's great for Phil and it's great for Chicago," center Bill Wennington said. "I'm very relieved. I love playing for Phil. He makes the game fun and he knows how to get the most out of his players."
Added guard Ron Harper: "He's a very good coach and a very good friend."
Jordan wasn't available for comment Thursday, but last week called Jackson the Bulls' most valuable asset.
"Phil has been able to mesh all the different personalities and experiment to where we've been successful," Jordan said.