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Six degrees of resignation (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday December 14, 2005 3:42PM; Updated: Wednesday December 14, 2005 6:31PM
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When Jordan retired again in '98, it was to give the carpool another driver. "Now I just want to enjoy my time with my family and friends, just recapture some of the time I gave away," he said then. But in the end, the only thing he'd recapture was fame, joining the Washington Wizards in 2000 as president of basketball operations and suiting up for them in 2001 as a player.

When Jordan retired for the final time in '03, the terms were much different. No one could blame him for going home; his wife, Juanita, had filed for divorce a year earlier. (They eventually reconciled in February '02.)


Jordan hasn't been the only former Bull willing to trade NBA fame for family. After Chicago's sixth title, in '98, coach Phil Jackson jetted off with his first wife, June, to Turkey, before retiring to his ranch in Montana. He didn't stay there long, signing on with the Lakers in 1999. But there he was five seasons later, headed out the door again, this time flanked by four of his grown children after losing in a blowout to the Pistons in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. "They were hoping I could win a 10th [title] and retire," Jackson said after the game.

They didn't need to wait long for him to try again when Jackson re-signed to lead the Lakers last June.

"The problem with coaches and athletes is the perfectionism that pervades their personality," says sports psychologist John F. Murray. "Nothing against family -- you need family. But eventually they're going to be itching for something more challenging."

It was an issue Steve Kerr would struggle with after ending his 15-year playing career in '03. "I was actually a little depressed for the first couple weeks," says Kerr, a married father of three. "Which is ironic because I was usually depressed because I had to go through training camp. It's sort of like a death of an era of your life. It can be sort of tough to move on."

Kerr eventually settled into life after basketball; a job as an NBA analyst for TNT has allowed him to keep a hand in the game and also have enough time to lend a hand to his wife, Margot, in raising children, Nicolas, Madeline and Matthew.

Likewise, Jeff Van Gundy, Stan's brother, used a career in television to tune out the chaos that had come with coaching in New York. He, too, retreated to TNT after resigning from the Knicks in midseason (citing a lack of focus after dealing with the deaths of two friends in the Sept. 11 attacks). When Jeff told his five-year-old daughter Mattie of his sudden plans to resign, she, like most New Yorkers, was shocked. "Does this mean you get to have lunch with me?" she asked. Of course, her father eventually returned to the bench two years later with the Houston Rockets.

Meanwhile, Uncle Stan will fill out his hours hunting around Miami for holiday lights for the house. This Christmas will mark Stan's first at home in almost a decade. It should be a welcome change of pace for a man whose life has been consumed by the game from the start -- the penance for being born the son of a coach. When Stan was 11 and his father, Bill, was too sick to scout his next opponent, the task fell to Stan, Jeff and their mother, Cindy, to watch the game and write the report. When he returns to the Heat, it'll be as a consultant who scouts free agents and college players. More important, it'll be less time-consuming. "I don't think they need me, to be quite honest," Van Gundy said of his young brood. "They're doing fine without me. But I need them."