On September 17, 1945, arguably the greatest NBA head coach of all-time was born in Deer Lodge, Montana. Phil Jackson turned 67 years old today and is still going strong while enjoying his retirement from the NBA.
Before the beginning of the shortened NBA season last year, the 13-time NBA champion decided to walk away from the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson’s time in Los Angeles was extremely successful with the Zen Master leading the storied NBA franchise to five NBA titles in 11 seasons.
As if winning two NBA titles as a player with the New York Knicks and coaching Michael Jordan to six titles with the Chicago Bulls wasn’t impressive enough, Jackson was lured to Los Angeles to take over for Del Harris back in 1999.
After signing with the Lakers, Jackson faced a lot of uncertainty with a promising young team filled with talent. The real question was whether or not Jackson would be able to succeed without Jordan leading the way. It didn’t take long to figure out that Jackson was as good as advertised and without a doubt one of the greatest head coaches in NBA history, with immediate success in Los Angeles.
In his first season with the Lakers, Jackson led Los Angeles to an impressive 67-15 record and the franchise’s first title since the Magic Johnson era by beating the Indiana Pacers in six games. The Lakers went on to win two more titles consecutively against the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets.
In 2004, the Lakers brought in veteran superstars Karl Malone and Gary Payton to playing alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The combination of the future Hall of Famers was thought to be enough to lead the team to more consecutive titles, but it ended with Jackson’s first series loss in the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons.
Jackson walked away from the Lakers after the collapse in the Finals only to return in 2005. Jackson’s second stint in Los Angeles got off to a rocky start as it was the beginning of a rebuilding process around Kobe.
Ultimately, after two early playoff exits and a loss to the Boston Celtics in the Finals, Jackson won two more titles as the Lakers coach. After winning his 10th title, Jackson passed Red Auerbach on the list of titles one as head coach in the NBA and as a result is widely considered the greatest coach in the history of the league. Jackson padded his legacy that much more winning another title in 2010 at the expense of the Celtics for a grand total of 11 as a coach
There’s been talk of Jackson potentially returning to the sidelines in the NBA at some point in the near future, but as a right now he appears to be content with retirement while spending time with girlfriend and Lakers VP Jeanie Buss.