My plan was to write a portrait of Phil Jackson after basketball: to capture the full mundanity of his post-N.B.A. existence. It became clear very quickly, however, that such a thing was impossible. There is no Phil Jackson after basketball. Our first meeting was at his favorite diner, an unpretentious, inexpensive place decorated with framed jigsaw puzzles of Norman Rockwell paintings. We chatted for a while about upstate New York, where Jackson used to live, and the rumors about his current job prospects, but before long he was giving me detailed scouting reports of current N.B.A. players, then borrowing my pen so he could diagram a play on his place mat. At our second meal, at the little cafe attached to the upscale grocery store, I asked Jackson — innocently enough, I thought — how the N.B.A. has evolved since he first joined it as a player 46 years ago. He started unfolding his napkin to draw another diagram — whereupon I stopped him, went out to my car and brought back a stack of fresh paper. I expected him to sketch maybe three or four representative schemes: the motion offense of his 1970s Knicks, the running game of the 1980s Showtime Lakers, his 1990s Bulls’ signature triangle offense, the screen-roll plays popular today. Instead, Jackson spent more than an hour and a half drawing, in great and sometimes bewildering detail, what turned out to be more than 20 sketches — a mess of circles and arrows and hash marks that represented, no doubt, an infinitesimal fraction of his total basketball knowledge. He worked, the whole time, with the joyful absorption of someone solving a particularly excellent crossword puzzle.