Phil Jackson, the best head coach in the history of the NBA, is calling it quits again. But this time, I think he’s for real. After being swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, something that has never happened to a Jackson-coached team in a seven-game series, he said that he had coached his final game. Obviously, he didn’t want to go out on such a sour note, but he had an amazing run and I’m sure he’s accomplished pretty much everything he wanted to and more.
Jackson coached in the NBA for 20 seasons and made the playoffs every season, winning a record 11 championships. He won three consecutive championships three separate times and was coach to some of the best teams in NBA history. Granted, he had the luxury of coaching the all-time best player in NBA history in Michael Jordan and the best active player in Kobe Bryant. But Jordan and Bryant also had the luxury of having the best coach in NBA history.
Often called the Zen master for being the master of mind games, Jackson had a unique way about him when it came to coaching. He always had a great balance between not being too soft on his players and not being too hard on them either. He put his teams in prime position to be successful and gave them the proper structure in which they could win on a consistent basis.
With both Jordan and Bryant (and Shaquille O’Neal before Bryant became the superstar he is now), Jackson did an excellent job of building a great team around an extraordinary player. He knew that his teams would always be good because they had a superstar, but understood they could be great if they had the right parts and those parts did their jobs to perfection. There are people out there who say Jackson had it made because he had two of the best players in NBA history on two separate teams. But there are plenty of teams in every sport who have superstars and haven’t even won one championship. I’d just say he was fortunate.
Jackson was what every coach should aspire to be – an extremely focused, passionate and confident leader. He was also the model of consistency for two franchises that wouldn’t have accomplished anywhere near what they did if Jackson hadn’t coached for them. And if you don’t believe me, take a look back to all the great teams the Lakers assembled in the late 60s and early 70s with Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor and the 80s with Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy. As good as those teams were, none of them ever won three championships in a row like Jackson did. Then again, nobody has accomplished quite as much as he has either.
Jackson was in a league of his own throughout his coaching career and it will be sad to see him go. But I’m sure he will enjoy a few months off in Montana relaxing and smoking his peyote (yes that was a jab at Rick Carlisle). Anyway, it’s tough to say what Jackson’s next move will be and whether it will involve basketball or not. But whatever it is, I’m sure he’ll be successful because he won’t accept anything less.
Submitted by Steve Giles