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Jackson announces he'll return to coach Lakers

LOS ANGELES - After just one relaxing week in Montana, Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson decided he can handle another season of the NBA grind.

The two-time defending champions locked up their most important free agent of the summer yesterday when Jackson announced he'll return next season, putting off retirement for at least another year to chase his 12th NBA title.

Jackson said last week he was worn out and leaning toward retirement after the Lakers' third straight long season culminating in the NBA Finals. He changed his mind after a week of rest and health evaluation at his offseason home, signing up for the unprecedented chance to win three consecutive NBA championships for the fourth time in his career.

"Count me in," Jackson said. "After a couple weeks of deliberation, it is time to get back to the challenge of putting together a team that can defend its title in the 2010-11 season.

"It'll be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one."

Jackson, who will turn 65 later this year, is the winningest coach in playoff history and most successful coach in NBA history by almost any measure.

He has a league-best .705 regular-season winning percentage, a record 225 postseason victories and two more titles than Boston's Red Auerbach, winning five championships with the Lakers and six with the Chicago Bulls. His 1,098 regular-season victories are fifth-most in league history.

The Lakers beat the Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last month to claim their second straight title, the franchise's 16th championship.

Los Angeles has made the Finals in seven of Jackson's 10 seasons with the club, and the Lakers will be among the early favorites to win it all again in 2011.

"We're extremely pleased that Phil has decided to return," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "He's not only the best coach for this team, but quite simply the best coach in the history of the NBA."

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