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Lakers notebook

He wants to hook on as head coach

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar usually lends his assistance to the Lakers, but yesterday he presented Kevin Garnett with a basketball at the Garden. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar usually lends his assistance to the Lakers, but yesterday he presented Kevin Garnett with a basketball at the Garden. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 7, 2008

If Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a head coach, things would be different.

For starters, Kevin Garnett.

He's a great post player, he can shoot the turnaround, he's got great range. But if Abdul-Jabbar was head coach, Garnett wouldn't be taking all those 18-footers.

"If I were coaching him, I'd like to see him closer to the basket," Abdul-Jabbar said after the Lakers' shootaround at TD Banknorth Garden yesterday. "The closer you are, the higher percentage your shots are."

But, you know, that's if Abdul-Jabbar was a head coach.

The concept's been kind of a tough sell.

The past three seasons, Abdul-Jabbar has been a special assistant for the same Lakers organization he helped win five NBA championships, a big-man guru contracted by Phil Jackson to develop players such as Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum.

But Abdul-Jabbar hasn't been able to crack the NBA's coaching fraternity. If something came up, he said, of course he would entertain the thought.

"But it may not present itself," he said.

He can't pinpoint a reason. Age possibly, he said. He retired at 42, took time off to deal with burnout, and tried to get into coaching at 46. He's 60 now.

Experience could have been another factor. Abdul-Jabbar's only head coaching experience came in 2002, with the Oklahoma Storm of the United States Basketball League. The storm won a championship, but that has been glanced over on his résumé.

He said his only head coaching opportunity came three years ago, when he interviewed with Columbia University.

"I had hoped to get an opportunity to be a head coach," he said. "But it hasn't happened. But working with Andrew has been a real pleasure and I'm glad I got involved."

Is there a bias against big men in the coaching fraternity? Ballhandlers get all the jobs, Abdul-Jabbar said. Bill Russell was the first big man to catch a break. And Abdul-Jabbar is still waiting on his. Maybe at the college level.

"A university would be something I would certainly entertain," he said. "I enjoy that environment, and being able to teach the game at that level would be fun."

But at this point, he's open to any opportunity.

"I think somebody that might want to consider me now knows that I have the experience," he said. "They see I'm coaching. It's not like I'm living up in Alaska."

Helping hands

Some of the Lakers were rolling their eyes at the thought that divine intervention helped an injured Paul Pierce back onto the court in Game 1.

Ronny Turiaf said when he saw three people haul Pierce off to the locker room, he was "shocked, very shocked."

On the possibility Pierce was touched by an angel, Lamar Odom simply smirked and said, "God is good."

When asked if he thought God was a Celtics fan, Odom said, "I think he roots for all of us."

Bench marked

Jackson took the blame, sort of, for the play of the Lakers' bench in Game 1, lamenting the way he handled their minutes. But he also pointed out the reserves didn't do much.

"I really shortened the minutes of the bench," Jackson said. "So that's not their fault about not scoring and no productivity."

Jackson is used to getting more out of his bench than the 15 points they scored in Game 1, their lowest total since Game 6 of the Lakers' second-round series against Utah, when the bench contributed 16 points. In the Western Conference finals, the LA bench was good for 23.6 points a night.

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