- Phil Jackson
Douglas Jackson (born September 17, 1945 in Deer Lodge, Montana) is a
former American professional basketball player and the current head
coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. His reputation was established as head
coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 through 1998; during his tenure,
Chicago won six NBA titles. His next team, the Los Angeles Lakers, won
three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-2002. In total, Jackson has won
9 NBA titles as a coach, a record shared with Red Auerbach.
Jackson is known for his use of Tex Winter's triangle offense as well
as a holistic approach to coaching that is influenced by Eastern
philosophy, earning him the nickname "Zen Master". (Jackson cites
Robert Pirsig's book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as one
of the major guiding forces in his life.) He also applies Native
American spiritual practices as documented in his book "Sacred
Hoops." He is the author of several candid books about his teams and
his basketball strategies. Jackson is also a recipient of the state of
North Dakota's Roughrider Award. Jackson leads the 2007 class of the
Basketball Hall of Fame. Jackson regularly attempts to alter his
appearance so the media cannot use old photos of him for recent news,
and, true to his word, as of September 2008, he was no longer sporting
his illustrious mustache (originally black then white with age), which
saw 9 NBA titles.
In 1999, as part of celebrations for the National
Basketball Association's 50th anniversary, Jackson was named one of the
10 greatest coaches in league history.
Jackson was hired as assistant coach for the Bulls in 1987, and
promoted to head coach in 1989. It was around this time that he met Tex
Winter and became a devotee of Winter's triangle offense. Over
9 seasons, Jackson coached the Bulls to 6 championships in impressive
fashion, twice winning three straight championships over separate three
year periods. The "three-peat" was the first since the Boston Celtics
won eight titles in a row from 1959 through 1966.
Jackson and the Bulls made the playoffs every year, and failed to win
the title only three times. Jackson lost in his first season in 1990.
Michael Jordan's first retirement after the 1993 season marked the end
of the first "three-peat," and although Jordan returned just before the
1995 playoffs, it was not enough to prevent a playoff exit to the
rising Orlando Magic.
The chemistry developed between Jackson and the
players was one of the best in NBA history. The respect shared between
the players and the coach was the key factor in being able to build up
a dynasty. While Jordan was already long considered the most dominant
player, Jackson was also credited as one of the most important elements
in the Bulls' championships and his work earned him league-wide
recognition. His relationship with Michael Jordan is considered to be
one of the greatest player-coach relationship in NBA history, with
Jackson claiming multiple times that Jordan was the greatest player he
Regardless of the success Jackson shared with his team, the tension
between Jackson and Bulls general manager Jerry Krause grew. Some
believed that Krause felt under-recognized for his work in building the
Bulls up into a championship team, being envious of the attention
received by Jordan and Jackson. In particular, Krause believed that
Jackson was indebted to him because Jackson received his first NBA
coaching job from Krause. Some examples of the tension include:
During the summer of 1997, Krause's stepdaughter got
married. All of the Bulls assistant coaches and their wives were
invited to the wedding, as was Tim Floyd, then the head coach at Iowa
State, whom Krause was openly courting as Jackson's successor (and who
would eventually succeed Jackson). Jackson and his wife at the time,
June, were not even told of the wedding, much less invited, only
finding out about the event when the wife of assistant Bill Cartwright
asked June what she would be wearing to the reception.
After contentious negotiations between Jackson and the Bulls in that
same period, Jackson was signed for the 1997-98 season only. Krause
announced the signing in what Chicago media widely considered to be a
mean-spirited manner, emphasizing that Jackson would not be rehired
even if the Bulls won the 1997-98 title. That triggered an argument
between Jackson and Krause in which Jackson essentially told Krause
that he seemed to be rooting for the other side and not the Bulls. At
that point, Krause told Jackson, "I don't care if it's 82-and-0 this
year, you're fucking gone."
Krause publicly portrayed Jackson as a two-faced character who had very
little regard for his assistant coaches, a perception that certain
Krause associates in the Bulls organization had sought to spread about
Jackson. At the height of the hard feelings in the spring of 1998, one
of Krause's scouts went to press row in Chicago's United Center to
explain to a reporter the insidious nature of Jackson's ego. (excerpt
from the Phil Jackson biography Mindgames)
After the Bulls' final title of the Jordan era in
1998, Jackson left the team vowing never to coach again. However, after
taking a year off, he decided to give it another chance with the Los
Angeles Lakers from 1999 to 2004 and again from 2005 to the present.
Phil Jackson (center) coaching the Lakers
Jackson took over a talented but troubled Lakers team and immediately
produced results. In his first year in L.A., the Lakers went 67-15
during the regular season to top the league. Reaching the conference
finals, they dispatched the Portland Trail Blazers in a tough
seven-game series and then won the 2000 NBA championship by beating the
Titles in 2001 and 2002 followed, against the Philadelphia 76ers and
New Jersey Nets, adding up to a three-peat. The main serious challenge
the Lakers faced was from their conference rival, the Sacramento Kings.
However, injuries, weak bench play, and full-blown
public tension between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal slowed the team
down, and they were beaten in the second round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs
by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.
Afterward, Jackson clashed frequently with Bryant. While remarkably
efficient in Jackson's "triangle offense", Bryant had a personal
distaste for Jackson's brand of basketball and subsequently called it
"boring". In games, Bryant would often disregard the set offense
completely to experiment with his own one-on-one moves, incensing the
normally calm Jackson. Bryant managed to test Jackson's patience enough
that the "Zen Master" even demanded that Bryant be traded, although
Laker management rejected the request.
Prior to the 2003–04 season, the Lakers signed NBA
star veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who had been franchise
players for the Utah Jazz and the Seattle SuperSonics, respectively,
leading to predictions by some that the team would finish with the best
record in NBA history. But from the first day of training camp, the
Lakers were beset by distractions. Bryant's rape trial, continued
public sniping between O'Neal and Bryant, and repeated disputes between
Jackson and Bryant all affected the team during the season. Despite
these distractions, the Lakers beat the defending champion Spurs en
route to advancing to the NBA Final and were heavy favorites to regain
the title. However, they were stunned by the Detroit Pistons, who
utterly dominated the series and defeated the Lakers four games to one.
On June 18, 2004, three days after Jackson had suffered his first-ever
loss in an NBA Finals series, the Lakers announced that Jackson would
leave his position as Lakers coach. Many fans attributed Jackson's
departure directly to the wishes of Bryant, as Lakers owner Dr. Jerry
Buss reportedly sided with Bryant. Jackson, Bryant and Buss all denied
that Bryant had made any explicit demand regarding Jackson. However,
O'Neal, upon hearing General Manager Mitch Kupchak's announcement of
the team's willingness to trade O'Neal and its intention to keep
Bryant, indicated that he felt the franchise was indeed pandering to
Bryant's wishes with the departure of Jackson. O'Neal's trade to the
Miami Heat was the end of the "Trifecta" that had led the Lakers to
three championship titles.
That fall, Jackson released The Last Season, a book
which describes his point of view of the tensions that surrounded the
2003–04 Lakers team. The book was pointedly critical of Kobe Bryant; at
one point, Jackson called Bryant "uncoachable."
Without Jackson and O'Neal the Lakers were forced to become a faster
paced team on the court. Though they achieved some success in the first
half of the season, injuries to several players including stars Kobe
Bryant and Lamar Odom forced the team out of contention, going 34-48 in
2004–05 and missing the playoffs for the first time in eleven years.
Jackson's successor as coach, Rudy Tomjanovich, resigned midway through
the season, citing health issues, immediately leading to speculation
that the Lakers might bring Jackson back.
On June 15, 2005, the Lakers rehired Phil Jackson. Jackson took a Laker
squad that was mediocre, aside from superstar Kobe Bryant, and led them
to a seventh-seed playoff berth. Once again promoting the notion of
selfless team play embodied by the triangle offense, the team achieved
substantial results, especially in the last month of the season.
Jackson also worked seamlessly with Bryant, who had earlier shown his
willingness to bring back Jackson to the bench. Bryant's regular-season
performance won him the league scoring title and made him a finalist in
MVP voting. However, the Lakers faced a tough 2006 first-round matchup
against the second-seeded Phoenix Suns, who were led by eventual MVP
winner Steve Nash. It was the first time that Jackson's team had failed
to reach the second round of the playoffs. The Lakers jumped out to a
3-1 lead following a dramatic last second shot by Bryant in overtime to
win game four, but the Suns recovered to win the last three and take
the series. Many consider the seven game contest to be among the
greatest first-round series in NBA history.
Jackson's main tactical contribution, both with the Bulls and the
Lakers, was the modernization of the triangle offense. He is also noted
as a gifted handler of difficult players, notably Dennis Rodman and
Kwame Brown. Jackson currently makes $10,000,000 a year, making him the
highest paid coach in NBA history.
On January 7, 2007, Jackson won his 900th game, currently placing him
9th on the all-time win list for NBA coaches. With this win, Jackson
became the fastest to reach 900 career wins, doing so in only 1,264
games and beating Pat Riley's previous record of 900 in 1,278 games.
On December 12, 2007, after announcing he would
return to his position as coach just a few days prior, Phil Jackson
inked a 2-year contract extension to continue his tenure with the Los
Angeles Lakers through the end of the 2009-2010 season.
He coached the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals against the Boston
Celtics. Boston won the series in game 6 of the NBA finals, beating the
Lakers in the final game in Boston.
On Christmas Day of 2008, Jackson became the 6th coach to win 1000
games, with the Lakers defeating the Celtics in their first match up of
the 2008-2009 season after losing to them in the 2008 NBA Finals. He
was the fastest to win 1000 games surpassing Pat Riley who had taken 11
more games than Jackson.
Jackson has a total of 11 NBA championship rings: two as a player with
the New York Knicks, six as coach of the Bulls, and three as coach of
the Lakers. Nine NBA championships as a head coach ties him with Red
Auerbach for the all-time lead in that category. Phil Jackson also
holds the best playoff winning percentage of all-time. As of the end of
the 2008–09 NBA season, Jackson's regular season record stands at
Jackson's Lakers will represent the Western
Conference in the 2009 NBA Finals against the Eastern Conference
Champions, Orlando Magic.