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Phil Jackson is not the Greatest NBA Coach of All Time

Updated on June 16, 2014

Phil Jackson


Phil Jackson Stats

Ah, yes, how dare I question the almighty Phil Jackson? Some critics may even ask, is this really a relevant question? I mean, Phil Jackson has acquired 11 NBA Championship rings, 6 with the Chicago Bulls, 5 with the L.A. Lakers. He also has over 1100 regular season wins and is about to surpass the record for most playoff wins of any NBA head coach. Certainly, there is no question that Phil Jackson's accomplishments are astounding.

My question is legitimacy. Is Phil Jackson really a great head coach? Certainly if one goes by statistics alone, then yes, he's one of the greatest coaches of all time. However, I'm not all about the stats. If all you want is a laundry list of great names then become a Miami Heat fan.

Heck, if stats and records are what you enjoy, then just sit back and watch the NY Yankees or the Philadelphia Phillies hoard in great players and observe great record breaking numbers. And why do I bring up baseball? What does the success of the Yankees, Red Sox, and the Phillies have to do with Phil Jackson or the NBA for that matter? Well, I'm pointing out a common characteristic. Simply put, Phil Jackson's success is attributed to acquiring great players NOT great coaching.

Jackson's Early Head Coaching Career

Phil Jackson is an enigma. He certainly didn't become a NBA head coach overnight. He paid his dues overseas.

Before his destined lightning-in-the-bottle pairing with Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson was on the outskirts of the NBA. From 1984-1987, Jackson coached in odd-end venues such as the CBA and the Puerto Rico's National Superior Basketball League. The experience was an overall success including a CBA title in 1984.

From there, Jackson was hired as an assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls. In 1989, Jackson became head coach, thus sending his NBA coaching career on a new path.

Jackson with Jordan


Chicago Bulls

While coaching the Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson was able to gobble up one NBA championship after another. In fact under Phil's reign, the Bulls not only attained 3 nba championships in a row (from 91' - 93'), but they were able to repeat this performance with another NBA championship 3-peat (from 96'-98').

Now, the question is...was Phil Jackson the mastermind behind these championships? Can you legitimately nullify Jackson's involvement of 6 NBA championships? Physically, no, Phil Jackson was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls during the specified time frame. However, I'm here to argue that Phil Jackson is a good coach and NOT a great head coach. And he certainly, isn't one of the greastes coaches of all time.

How can I say this? Well, let's look at the facts, shall we? (Oh before we get started here, I will address Jackson's tenure in Los Angeles as well. Be patient!)

Michael Jordan

Life with Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is arguably the best NBA player of all time. To this day, nearly a decade after Jordan's retirement, NBA players are constantly being compared to MJ, the legend. From Allen Iverson to Vince Carter, to Kobe Bryant to Lebron James, we as spectators continually make the Jordan comparison. Yet, somehow, none of these basketball players ever live up to Jordan's legacy. Jordan not only dwarfs all of them in overall statistics, but he also has not 4, not 5, but 6 NBA championships. Sorry, Lebron, you don't even have one championship.

Keeping this in mind, I am here to address the notion that Phil Jackson is one of the best NBA head coaches of all time. Simply put, Jackson is/was over-rated. Now, for all those Lakers/Bulls/Phil Jackson fans out there, let me explain the term over-rated. The term doesn't mean he is a bad coach. All it means is that someone or somebody doesn't live up to the hype or expectation.

Phil Jackson had the best NBA player of all time on his team! Shouldn't you win some championships if you have such a transcending player? Additionally, they didn't start winning championships until the arrival of Scottie Pippen, who by the way is in the top 50 NBA players of all-time. In essence, the Bulls had 2 NBA Hall of Famers, and a great ensemble to support them.

Still not convinced that Phil Jackson was merely a good coach who fell into one great circumstance after the next? Well, let's take a look at the Los Angeles Lakers shall we?

LA Lakers

When Phil Jackson took over the controls as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, he fell into yet another great cast of NBA players. With players like Kobe Bryant (who is often the closest comparison to Michael Jordan) and Shaquille O'Neal, the Lakers most likely had the best 2 players in the NBA at that time. Shaq was certainly the best center in the game and Kobe was young and on his way to greatness.

Granted, the Lakers were unable to capture any championships before the arrival of Phil Jackson. However, the Lakers were a championship contender when Jackson arrived on the scene and, let's face it, Del Harris (head coach of Lakers from 1994-1999) and Kurt Rambis (1999) were not going to take the Lakers to the next level.

Phil Jackson often accredits the Triangle Offense to his overall success. Let's take a look-see.

Breakdown of Triangle Offense

Triangle Offense

The Triangle Offense...Ah, yes. Phil Jackson's pride and joy. The triangle offense is supposedly THE ultimate offensive scheme and deemed unbeatable if executed correctly. It's an offensive strategy in basketball designed to position the players in such a way that allows each player to pass to any of the other four players with ease and precision. Every move, every screen, every pass has a purpose. Basically, it's a series of highly coordinated picks and screens with continuous back door slashes and cuts to and from the elbow, the wing, and the basket.

If this sounds a little confusing and complicated, it's because it is! It may be a 'perfect' system, but even the mastermind behind it, Tex Winter and Phil Jackson himself admit that the system requires the right personnel in order to implement the system effectively. Case in point, is the Minnesota Timberwolves. They've been trying the triangle offense for years and let's just say they don't have any NBA championships to show for it.

So, what exactly is the right personnel? Hmm, well, I guess it means the triangle offense requires the best player of all time (Michael Jordan), a top 50 hall of famer (Scottie Pippen), and maybe the best rebounder of all time (Dennis Rodman). Or wait...maybe another cast can fill that role. Ah yes, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, and Robert Horry. Or wait, sorry, maybe replace O'Neal and Horry with Paul Gasol and Lamar Odom.

Do you see a trend here? Hmmm...What do you think?

Greatest NBA Coaches

Should Phil Jackson be considered one of the best NBA head coaches of all time?

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