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The biggest difference between Doug Collins and Phil Jackson and how it affected Michael Jordan

One of Jerry Krause's brightest and riskiest moves was believing in Phil Jackson and replacing Collins with the Zen Master.
Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan, head coach Phil Jackson and Doug Collins

Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Doug Collins

Doug Collins and Phil Jackson were two of the most prominent coaches of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls from 1986 until 1998. Jackson was first Collins' assistant before he took over in 1989 when the Bulls had yet to win a single championship.

This coaching change helped prevail the start of the Bulls dynasty, but it was also something that Jordan and the fans of Chicago didn't like at first. Why? Because Collins and Jackson had two distinct approaches and styles of play.

The most opposite styles of offense

Jackson, who played for the New York Knicks for ten years, always liked motion and a systematic offense. The Zen master spent a lot of time with fellow Bulls assistant Tex Winter, one of the biggest innovators of the triangle offense. However, the irony was that Collins didn't like the triangle offense that his assistants were fond of and instead implemented his own offense based on his principles.

In his New York Times bestseller book entitled "Eleven Rings: The Soul of Sucess," Jackson opened up about the biggest difference between his coaching style and Collins.

According to Jackson, Collins liked the idea of a point guard bringing down the ball at all times. Instead of a predictable systematic approach, the head coach wanted the concept of calling random set plays every single possession to keep the defense guessing.

"Doug had players learn a repertoire of forthy to fifty plays that were constantly in flux. Then he would call plays from the sidelines as the game progressed, based on what he saw happening on the floor. This style of coaching, which is not uncommon in the NBA, was well suited for Doug. He had exceptional court vision and got energized by being actively involved in the game," Jackson said.

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"The downside was it made players overly dependent on his minute-by-minute direction. It also turned everybody except Michael into a supporting actor, because many of the plays were designed to capitalize on his scoring genius,"

Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

When Phil dethroned Doug

Jackson mentioned that Collins' system changed so frequently that the team members began to refer to his offense as "play-a-day." Collins' system depended so heavily on a playmaking point guard that he insisted Bulls general manager Jerry Krause get him the right point guard.

Unfortunately, Chicago couldn't find a high-IQ quarterback as they went from Sedale Threatt, Steve Colter, Rory Sparrow to Sam Vincent — all of whom did not thrive for them.

Finally, Collins decided to give the point-guard duties to Jordan, who excelled in the role, except that his scoring went down. Winter then suggested that Collins run a more systematic approach that didn't rely heavily on a point guard, which pissed Collins off, so he decided to banish Winter on the sidelines.

This was when Krause started to have his doubts about Collins. It only got worst when Collins was kicked out during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks for getting into a rift with the referees.

Jackson then took over Collins' seat during that game and made the team run the full-court press, and gave players a free hand on offense. It worked so smoothly that the Bulls came back to defeat the Bucks.

This was also the same game when the Chicago broadcast showed Jackson's wife June sitting next to Krause and his wife, creating tension between Jackson and Collins.

Jackson wasn't entirely welcome at first.

When Krause finally decided to give the head coaching reigns to Jackson that summer, the 11-time champion admitted that the fans didn't like the idea at first. In his documentary "The Last Dance," which premiered last April 2020, Jordan also confessed that he preferred Collins' system at first since it catered to him more than the triangle offense.

"I was thrilled, but the fans in Chicago were not so pleased. Collins was a popular figure in town, and he'd taken the team to new heights during the past three years. When reporters asked Jerry Reinsdorf why he had made such a risky move, he said, 'Dough brought us a long way from where we had been. You cannot say he wasn't productive. But now we have a man we feel can take us the rest of the way' "

Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

Ultimately, Jackson's triangle offense became an integral part of the Bulls dynasty that helped Jordan become a six-time champion. One of Krause's brightest and riskiest moves was believing in Jackson and replacing Collins for him. 

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