Phil Jackson won six NBA championships during his nine years as head coach of the Chicago Bulls. And yet many of his critics were always quick to point out — often with an almost sadistic glee — that his success was due as much (or more so) to luck than his coaching acumen. And by “luck” what they actually meant was “Michael Jordan.” (Or, in some cases, “Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.”)
Then Phil went to L.A. and immediately won another three championships in a row, bringing his total to nine, which tied him with the legendary Red Auerbach for most NBA titles won by a head coach. Rather than validating Phil in the eyes of his critics, it actually intensified the cynicism. At that point, the “luck” assessment was expanded to something along the lines of, “Yeah, well, anybody could win a championship with MJ and Scottie or Shaq and Kobe.”
It was like no coach had won with superstars before.
Now Phil has won a record-setting 10th NBA title. I think it’s safe to say all the winning is no fluke. Yes, Phil had an all-timer (Kobe Bryant), but Pau Gasol is no Shaq and Lamar Odom is certainly no Scottie Pippen. In fact, this is probably the worst squad — talent-wise — of Jackson’s 10 championship teams. But that fact won’t keep the ring off Phil’s finger.
So, what’s the secret of his success? Said Kobe: “I think it’s his ability to bring people together. The biggest thing that he does so well is he continues to coach the group, continues to coach unity and chemistry and togetherness. And that’s the biggest thing, because when you’re together you can withstand adversity. If you’re not, you can easily break apart and become a team of individuals. That’s his biggest characteristic of what he does well.”
Added Derek Fisher: “He doesn’t try to control you as a coach. He empowers you to be who you are. And if you want to be the best, and if you believe in your team and if you believe you can win a title, then this is what can happen. He doesn’t put himself in the way. He lets us do it. And this is the result.”
Now, the greatness that began here in the Windy City is locked in, historically speaking. So congratulations to Phil Jackson. I only wish that he could have coached all 10 of his titles here in Chicago.