Phil Jackson: Making Things Look Easy

Written by: Emily Wilson

Nov 2, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Staples Center. Photo via Newscom


Although it’d be difficult, at this point, to call into question the coaching greatness of Phil Jackson, it wasn’t so long ago that some criticized him of having it easy. They thought, and perhaps actually, still continue to think, that his record 11 championships were earned solely on the merits of his star-powered personnel.

When coaching the then-champion Chicago Bulls in the early 90’s, it was, of course, Michael Jordan that fueled this argument. How could a coach NOT win with Jordan controlling the reins? And with Pippen, Armstrong, Grant and Cartwright…well, it was no wonder at all that such a team achieved the first three-peat since the Celtics dominated for eight in a row in the 50’s and 60’s. Right?

The argument was similar for his later Bulls three-peat teams, and certainly carried over when he came to Los Angeles and began to win here, too. It was Kobe. It was Shaq. It had mostly everything to do with the stars on his team and a limited amount to do with his approach to coaching the game of basketball.

The late Red Aurbach once said of Phil Jackson: “He’s never tried building a team and teaching the fundamentals. When he’s gone in there, they’ve been ready-made for him. It’s just a matter of putting his system in there.”

Disagree.

Next: Harder Than It Looks

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