JAN. 31 I wonder again if my relationship with Kobe has deteriorated beyond repair. Earlier this week on the way to the practice court, I asked Kobe, still nursing a sore shoulder, if he could do a little running. Sure, he responded, as soon as he finished his treatment. Almost an hour went by, and there was no Kobe sighting. Finally, with an ice pack on his shoulder, he took a seat on the sideline. Kobe had no intention of running. After practice I asked him why he lied. He was being sarcastic, he said. Wrong answer. I can't imagine how difficult this ordeal has been for Kobe, but that doesn't mean I will be the recipient of his displaced anger, especially when I've been on his side since the story broke.
I went to Mitch and went on a tirade about the need to deal Kobe before the trading deadline. "I won't coach this team next year if he is still here," I said. "He won't listen. I've had it with this kid."
FEB. 16 A conversation with Kobe often reveals one of his many narcissistic tendencies. Kobe expressed his disapproval of Shaquille's failure to show up for practice today. "That just shows you what kind of a leader he is," he said. He was angry about the allowances the Lakers afford Shaq, failing to note the hypocrisy. Nobody I've ever coached has received more allowances than Kobe Bryant. At times the pettiness between the two can be unbelievably juvenile. Shaq won't allow himself to be taped by Gary Vitti because he's too aligned with Kobe. Kobe won't let Chip Schaefer, Shaq's guy, tape him.
APRIL 13 Today Kobe went from player to player, showing an article with an anonymous quote criticizing his play. "Right here and right now," he said, "I want to know who said this s---."
Karl Malone finally broke the silence. "Obviously, Kobe, no one wants to admit it," Karl said. "You've got to let it go now." Karl and Kobe, who had become pals, launched into a shouting match that I had to stop.
Desperate measures, I'm beginning to think, might be in order. Maybe we'll return to meditation, something, anything, to improve our karma.
JUNE 18 A day I will never forget. By evening I no longer had a job. I was not surprised, yet the end of any journey is always jarring.
I couldn't help but think of a meeting I had with Kobe in February, trying to salvage a relationship and a season. There was tension, yet Kobe and I did work well together--for four months. Talking to him today, the tension wasn't there. We both knew I would never coach him again.
Mitch, Kobe and I met. I told Kobe how pleased I was with his ability to put aside our conflicts and make a strong commitment to the season. Mitch didn't waste the opportunity to praise Kobe's performances. The next subject was his decision to become a free agent, which killed a minute or two. I then got down to the questions I really wanted to ask.
"Will my presence or absence affect your desire to play for the Lakers?" I asked.