Congratulations, Phil

Phil X

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.

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8 Responses to Congratulations, Phil

    Chitown_MyKe June 15, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    He’s a Bulls for life. LA is just a resting spot.

    WildYams June 15, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

    I would disagree that this was the least talented team that Phil ever coached to a title. While Gasol is nowhere near as good as the team’s second best player as Pippen or Kobe were, the 3-12 players surely might be better than we saw on some of those other teams.

    The amount of titles Phil has is really staggering. It hit me last night that Phil has now won as many championships as a Laker coach as Pat Riley did, and he’s won as many championships as a Laker coach as Greg Popovich has with the Spurs. Just Phil’s work with the Lakers would put him up among the all time greats, and that’s leaving out the six he won with the Bulls! Just crazy.

    steven c June 15, 2009 at 6:12 pm #

    of course pj had great players…guess what, you don’t win championships without. as casey stengelonce said when the yankees came back to win a world series: “i couldn’ta done it without the players”! but in this age of multimillionaire superstars, the most important skill is man-management, since all coaches (well, almost all)know the Xs and Os, and you have assistants to help you.
    as stated elsewher, phil’s greatest year may be the first year post-MJ, and any coach who can rein in Rodman would automatically be great in my book.
    i’m a laker fan, but appreciate the job he did in chi, (and ps with albany). ya think auerbach didn’t have one or two (or five or six!) good players (and all together for most of his time there!) in a smaller league!

    Wormboy June 15, 2009 at 8:22 pm #

    I also am not sure this is the least talented squad. Gasol is a small step down from Pippen or the early Kobe, and as Yams points out, 3-12 are arguably better than many of those others. I think a lot of people are neglecting Gasol. The guy put together a fantastic playoff run, and his efficiency was astonishing. I happen to be one who places a very high value on efficiency compared to star power. After all, Iverson has always been able to put up big numbers, right? What is that really worth? So let’s not insult Gasol further (the talking heads have done so enough).

    Phil deserves huge credit. I’ve always thought that his skill is not the Xs and Os so much as getting crazy prima donnas to pull in the same direction. I’d argue that getting Kobe to play ball with teammates is as great an achievement as getting Rodman to play ball.

    Sam June 15, 2009 at 11:10 pm #

    Jordan: 0 titles without Phil.
    Pippen: 0 titles without Phil.
    Kobe: 0 titles without Phil.
    Pau: 0 playoff victories without Phil.
    Shaq: 1 title without Phil (thank you Dwayne Wade).

    As a huge basketball fan who lived in Chicago from 1982-1999 and has lived in in L.A. since 2000, I have had the joy of watching Phil Jackson’s teams dominate the NBA for almost 20 years. Thanks Phil!

    Czernobog June 16, 2009 at 2:02 am #

    Phil has been pretty horrible through these playoffs, he was lucky, as far as that goes, to have faced an even more destructive coach in Van-Gundy in the finals. And those are two of the best coaches in the league. I mean, everyone was expecting him to face Mike freakin’ Brown.

    I don’t want to belittle Phil’s Basketball acumen, but this is a players’ league.

    Employee Conflict September 27, 2014 at 9:09 am #

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