The Zen Master Can’t Motivate and Just Rolls the Ball Out?
(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 8th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)
So I’m watching the ESPN show, “Jim Rome is Burning”, and I’m about to doze off when Jeff Chadiha says some of the most ill-informed things about Phil Jackson I have ever heard. How a coach can win a record eleven NBA championships and still be this underrated by some is astonishing.In response to the Los Angeles Lakers being down 0-2 to the Dallas Maverick Chadiha, on Friday, said this, “There in a place that is not very good when you have Phil Jackson as your head coach. Things are falling apart, there are trust issues, there are chemistry issues — He’s not the guy you want on your sideline because he is more of a let the veterans work it out, let my leaders take charge.”
Now down 0-3, odds are the Lakers will lose this series but are you kidding me with this? Lets look at Phil Jackson’s coaching career . When Jackson took over in Chicago, Scottie Pippin was not a veteran and was considered soft. Jackson had to convince Jordan to trust the triangle offense and allegedly there were all kinds of trust and chemistry issues between Jordan and his teammates, as is written in the book, “Jordan Rules”. The Bulls overcame the bad boys in Detroit and won two tittles. Then down 0-2 to the New York Knicks in 1993 they came back to win in six games to make it their first three-peat.
When Jordan retired the first time, it was supposed to be open season on the Bulls. All of the Jackson haters (I’m guessing you too Chadiha?) were salivating about how he and the Bulls were going to be exposed.
Except a funny thing happened on the road to humiliation, they won two fewer games during the regular season than they did the year before with Jordan. They lost in-game seven on a phantom foul call to the New York Knicks in the playoffs.
Had Jackson quit when Jordan retired and someone else came in and led the Bulls to that identical season you can bet that coach would have won coach of the year and we would have heard how impressive that was.
The Bulls second three-peat: If Jordan’s first year back after retirement was his true rookie year he would not have gone down as arguably the greatest of all-time. He still would be great but his athleticism was clearly diminished. Jackson coached a new cast of characters to another three-peat. He tamed Dennis Rodman (enough) and kept his team focused to win a regular season record-breaking 72 games.
Back to the Rome/ Chadiha interview — When Jim Rome says to Chadiha, “I thought the guy (Jackson) was a brilliant motivator — ” Chadiha looks at Rome as if to say “Child please” and responds with, “He’s a front-runner — ”
Jackson’s third three-peat: Now with the Los Angeles Lakers. Now with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The year before Jackson’s arrival, the Lakers got swept out of the playoffs by San Antonio. The year before that they got swept out of the playoffs by Utah. Kobe was not yet the superstar he thought he was but would later become. The historic soap opera and battle for alpha dog supremacy between Shaq and Bryant was underway and threatening to break up the dynasty before it had a chance to begin.
It is safe to say there was trust and chemistry issues galore Mr. Chadiha. Issues that would have split up the team if not for the Zen Master leading them to a championship in his first season. PJ motivated Shaq to play defense like we had never seen him play it before and got Kobe to defer to Shaq.
Continuing with Rome when he asks Chadiha, “What are you saying that he just rolls the ball out?” Chadiha’s response, “Basically, yeah that is what he does — but when it comes to motivating people when times are down he is not your guy.”
After a year out of coaching, PJ returns to the Lakers who are now a team in a state of flux. Shaq is gone and the Lakers did not make the playoffs in Jackson’s absence. Not exactly a front running situation.
Despite writing a tell all book that hung Kobe out to dry, Bryant welcomed Phil back with open arms because he knew the dude could coach! This team clearly had work to do and similar to the salivation the Jackson haters had after Jordan retired that first time, people were lining up to see Jackson fail.
This time winning didn’t come right away. On the journey back to winning championships Jackson would have to:
- Integrate a rookie out of high school named Andrew Bynum.
- He would have to repair trust issues and build Bynum up after a camera/cell phone caught Kobe Bryant in public complaining that the Lakers didn’t trade Bynum for Jason Kidd.
- Jackson had to integrate foreign plays such as Sasha Vujacic, and Vladamir Radmanovic.
Further, there was another rookie named Trevor Ariza, the acquisition of Pau Gasol and he had to get key veteran Lamar Odom to accept losing his starting role to come off the bench.
For money reasons, budding star Ariza was let go and the enigmatic Ron Artest was brought in. No matter, Jackson coached them to another championship with both players.
If you look at the state of Jackson’s teams before and after he arrived and the fact that they never won a championship or even made it to an NBA finals without him, his contributions should be unquestioned.
The loyalty he inspires from stars and role players alike provide further testimony to things like chemistry, trust and motivation. The man has more championships as a head coach then Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, George Karl, Jeff Van Gundy, Stan Van Gundy, Jerry Sloan, and Don Nelson combined.
Pat Riley took over a Laker team that already won a championship. Gregg Popovich had a dynasty in San Antonio but never was able to repeat or make it back to the championship the following season. Doc Rivers coaching record prior to Danny Ainge making a great trade for Ray Allen, being gifted Garnett from his friend in Minnesota Kevin McHale, drafting Rajon Rondo and adding all of this to Paul Pierce, was average at best, Jerry Sloan, never won with Stockton and Malone.
Lets face it Jeff, for whatever reason, Jackson could never satisfy the haters. Had he won with Stockton and Malone, or the current big three (really four) in Boston, or back when Seattle had Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, the Ewing led Knicks, Dwight Howard in Orlando — You would always write off his winning and attribute it to the talent. Well guess what, it does take talent to win in the NBA yo.
But prior to Michael Jordan only once in the history of the NBA had a team with the leading scorer won a championship. Jackson motivates, he gets the most out of his players and just because he doesn’t call time outs when he is supposed to doesn’t mean he is not coaching.
Criticizing Jackson after an epic record-setting run of 11 championships and for not coming back from 0-2 after losing the first two at home (something only done three times) would be like criticizing Joe DiMaggio after game fifty-seven when his hitting streak ended.
PS And just for good measure, Jackson won a championship in the Continental Basketball Association back in 1984. I guess he must have had the Michael Jordan of the CBA on his team and just rolled out the ball for him too.
Published by Jeff Schubert
Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…