Phil Jackson, nice guy

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Jane Leavy wrote last year's bestseller on Sandy Koufax and a previous comic novel, Squeeze Play, loosely based on herself, about a sportswriter making her way in the man's world of pro sports. In an interview yesterday on the BronxBanter blog (via Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts), she reveals that the tall, naked, understanding player who broke the ice on her first foray into a dressing room was current Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

I walked into the Knicks locker room and I was scared to death. Which of course, everyone is, male or female, the first time they walk into a professional locker room, and anyone who tells you different is lying through their teeth...

I stood there looking stupid until everybody was gone, and finally this guy comes out of the shower, stark naked, dripping wet: large, long and white. And he puts his arm around me and says, “Is this your first time?” Bravado escaped me, and I told the truth. I said, “Yes.” And he said, “Well, we just want you to know, you’re doing very well.” And he patted me on the head and disappeared...

He came back out again, still naked, still white, and still very wet, and said, “By the way, what are you doing here anyway?”

She was there for a soft feature on athletes who got all styled to go out after a game. Jackson went over to Earl (The Pearl) Monroe asked to get in his stash of "smells."

(Pearl) gets up off his trunk, which was filled with approximately 100 different varieties of coco butter and cologne. Phil Jackson begins taking the stuff out and trying it all on. And he’s spraying himself, and spraying the rest of them. He’s dancing and he’s prancing. He’s having everybody sniff his wrists to see which smell becomes him more. He does this whole parade, this whole shtick for me, and then he stops and winks at me and says, “Got enough?” That is what we all know as being handed a story.

Leavy also discloses that when Koufax was checking out her cred, he asked to read Squeeze Play.

I hemmed and I hawed, and I finally said, “You know, there are a lot of shlongs in it.” And he said, “Is mine one of them?” I said, “No.” And he said, “So what’s the problem?”

Squeeze Play has just been reissued in paperback by Harper Collins. Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy is coming out in paperback next month.

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