Phil Jackson stepped into the freight elevator at Madison Square Garden and found himself feeling nostalgic. While making the same trip up to the fifth floor that he's made as a home player and visiting coach since the Garden opened, he realized something.
"It doesn't smell like elephants," Jackson said.
That's a significant reference, one that very few people around here would understand if their history in this building doesn't date back before this millennium. The smell of elephants meant the circus was in town. And when the circus was in town, it was the spring. And the spring means playoffs.
"That is the time the elephant smell is in the building," Jackson said. "It was always a pleasure."
Even more than his 11 seasons as a Knick, playing for beloved mentor Red Holzman, Jackson said he recalls the epic battles between the Knicks and the Bulls, when he was the enemy in the building and had the world's greatest weapons in Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Jackson was a member of two championship teams with the Knicks - though he was injured and did not play in 1969-70 - but seemed to get more satisfaction out of being part of the reason why a third title was never achieved in the 1990s.
Indications are this most likely is Jackson's last season as Lakers coach, but we've heard that before. He's 65, with 11 titles, and perhaps the only bucket-list item he's yet to cross off is to sit in the seat Holzman once did on the Knicks' bench. He's had chances to do that in the past but it's never come to fruition, and the job is not available now.
These may no longer be his Knicks, but the Garden still is the Garden.
"When it jumps, it really goes," Jackson said. "This is a place that really does jump."