Phil Jackson: The Zen Master

Phil Jackson: The Zen Master

Phil Jackson began his coaching career as an assistant with the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, before serving as head coach of the Albany Patroons in the mid-80s. He rejoined the NBA as an assistant with the Chicago Bulls in 1987 and was promoted to head coach in 1989.

During his time with the Bulls, Jackson became known for his modernization of Tex Winter’s triangle offense. His impressive leadership, combined with the talents of such star players as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, earned the Bulls six championships in a pair of “three-peats” (1991-93, 1996-98). The team made it to the playoffs every year Jackson served as coach.

Despite the success, tension grew between Phil Jackson and Bulls general manager Jerry Krause. After winning the title in 1998, Jackson took a year off. Jackson returned to the NBA to coach the Los Angeles Lakers, the team with another pair of superstars, Shaquille O’Neal and scoring machine Kobe Bryant, whom Jackson guided to three consecutive championships (2000–02). Jackson decided to step away from the game again for a year in 2004 but returned as the Lakers’ coach in 2005. He guided the Lakers to another title during the 2008–09 NBA season to earn his 10th championship, surpassing Red Auerbach for the most titles as a head coach in league history. In 2009–10 Jackson won his fifth championship with the Lakers and 11th overall. He retired after the 2010–11 NBA season.

Jackson worked as a coach for 20 years, reaching the playoffs 20 times. His eleven NBA Championships were won with a phenomenal win rate of 70,4 percent. With MJ, Kobe, and Shaq, he helped three exceptional players to achieve their successes by pushing them and at the same time incorporate them into a functioning team structure.