Phil Jackson. Greatest coach of all time. Say it with me, it's okay.
Is there really anyone else who can even compare to Jackson? Many will bring up Red Auerbach who also won nine titles, but those nine titles are nothing compared to Jackson's. Red's teams won a total of 19 playoff series to win those titles while Jackson's teams had to win 36. Red's teams averaged about five hall of fame players per team on them, played in an eight team league, didn't have to worry about free agency, and didn't have players making 10x as much as the coach.
Call me the brash young noob, but the Celtics run of ten titles back in
an eight team league might be the most overrated achievement in sports,
as are many of the players on those teams who are considered top 50
guys while playing in one of the weakest eras of competition in the
Who else have you got? Pat Riley? He might be the next closest guy
out there winning titles with the Lakers, coming close with the Knicks,
and then gathering up another one with the Heat, but he's a whole pile
of rings short and has had more classically developed teams to work
with always having a dominant center be it Kareem, Ewing, Alonzo, or
What Jackson did with the Bulls seems easy, in retrospect. However,
few seem to remember that before the first title, it was a common
opinion that a team simply couldn't win with Jordan because he wouldn't
share the ball. It was common to believe that a team couldn't win it
all without a great center, and no disrespect to Bill Cartwright who
filled his role admirably, he was not a great center in the mold that
people were thinking of.
Jackson took a team whose primary talent was at SG and SF and turned it
into the most impressive sports dynasty in NBA history. Don't
overlook the difficulty in that task as it's the pairing that most
occupies the same space on the floor possible. It's the pairing that
makes creating matchup problems least likely, and it's the pairing that
gives you no semblance of a natural inside/outside game to open up the
floor for each other.
It's often been said that Jackson always had talent to work with.
Jackson never built teams. Note to the naysayers, coaches aren't the
ones building teams and acquiring talent. That is the job of the
executive. Until someone puts Jackson up for the executive of the
year award, this doesn't need to enter the discussion. Coaches do
the most with what they're given, yet the most successful ones are then
shot down for having so much to work with.
If Jackson coached the Utah Jazz and had the second best PF of all time
and a top five PG of all time on his roster for over a decade would the
Jazz had won a title? And if they did, would you still say he just
"of course he won, he had two all time greats on his team for a
decade"? Such comparisons are obviously impossible.
Look at Jackson's history though, and it doesn't show someone who was
gifted magical rosters. First he won the coach of the year and a
title in the CBA. I'm not going to lecture you about the Albany
Patroons, but they won a title in their second year of existence with
Jackson at the helm.
Next, when he became the head coach of the Bulls they immediately made
it to the ECF (one round father than before) then followed that up by
three titles. When Jordan left, the Bulls still deserved to make it
back to the ECF (losing to the Knicks on one of the worst calls in the
history of the sport). When Jordan returned, Jackson had to meld together a team with near 100% roster turnover to rattle off
three more titles.
The Lakers immediately got better with Jackson winning three titles and
in the year Jackson was out Rudy T took a team with Odom/Butler/Kobe to
38 wins while Jackson took the team with Odom/Kwame/Kobe to 45 wins
improving the record by seven games with a far worse roster. With one
legitimate all star added on to the team Jackson is back in the finals
for his second consecutive year.
It's clear Jackson has succeeded with great talent, but it's just as
clear that he's succeed more than others were able to do with that similar
talent. He was able to keep clashing megastar personalities at bay
enough to form dynasties out of teams that could have easily collapsed
on themselves otherwise.
Beyond personality management and team improvement, Jackson's also
shown great versatility. If the Lakers go on to win a title he'll
have won titles with three separate players being clearly the dominant
player on the team. He'll have done so with teams that have talent in
very different places as well. Two wing players, a wing player and a
low post center, and a wing player and a face up power forward.
Jackson's shown the ability to do it all. It's a sham that the man has only won coach of the year once making a mockery of the award. Give the man his due,
because there's been no one better, and feel blessed that he did it here for