Daniel Gibson, that girl on deck NBA editor
When Phil Jackson’s name is mentioned there are probably a few things that immediately come to mind: championships, Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls and the Lakers.
He hasn’t been retired for one full season yet but his name is being mentioned nearly every day.
The New York Knicks have been working hard to add talent to their roster in order to compete for championships but this week, coach Mike D’Antoni resigned after struggling to deal with the ego of a star player, leaving behind a talented team in need of direction.
Jackson won two titles with the Knicks as a player
(1970 and 73’) and he always spoke highly of the team and players he was with. Jackson doesn’t shy away from attention and coming back to New York with their current lineup would bring plenty of that.
But the Knicks lineup is constructed much differently than the Bulls and Lakers teams he coached because there isn’t a dominate duo. Not taking anything away from Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, they have had great careers up to this point but they have yet to show that they can be successful together. Neither one of them is known for playing defense.
Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) were a few players Jackson coached in the past that loved to play defense and dominate an opponent on both sides of the court. The Knicks don’t have many players like that. (To be fair Jared Jeffries, Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert are excellent defenders though.)
I’m sure Jackson has been hearing all the talk and his competitive fire has to be burning right now, but is he really up for this type of challenge at this point?
His 11 championships as a coach are the most in NBA history, two more than Red Auerbach had, and he won his final title coaching the Lakers against the rival Boston Celtics. No doubt giving Boston fans even more reasons to hate the Lakers, as if they needed more ammunition.
But in sports matter how great you are there will always be cynics and criticism. Some people knock Jackson’s accomplishments because of the players he coached.
Jordan is viewed by most professional athletes, journalist and fans of the NBA as being the greatest player to ever step on the hardwood. He teamed up with Pippen who was a tremendous defender and player in his own right. Later Rodman joined the mix and he was one of the best rebounders in NBA history and he also holds the unofficial record for most hair colors
in a career. These Hall-of-Famers were surrounded by a group of role players who had defined roles to carry out and they each did it well.
Jackson didn’t have to get on guys to work hard during practices because Jordan was notorious for his work ethic. He would treat practices like they were real games and he attacked every drill with the intention of doing it better than anyone else. When the best player in the league is working that hard in practice the rest of the team picks up on that and follows his lead.
During games Jackson didn’t have to ask who wanted to take the last shot either. Jordan was up for the challenge every single time. Make or miss, having a great game or not, Jordan wanted to take the shot with the game on the line and the pressure at its maximum point. He was also smart enough to pass to the open teammate (just ask Steve Kerr) if the defense tried to load up on him.
It’s almost as if Jackson was there as a guardian and Jordan was running the show. They were able to win six championships and if Jordan didn’t leave the game to play baseball for a couple of seasons most people believe they would have won more.
The next stop for Phil Jackson was Los Angeles where he was fortunate enough to have Kobe and Shaq.
In LA, Jackson took his “guardian” role to another level because Shaq and Kobe were usually fighting with each other and he had to help them play together. He implemented his triangle offense but during that time no player in the league could physically matchup with Shaq.
But just as dominating as Shaq was in the paint, Kobe was a force on the perimeter that teams couldn’t handle. It was a situation where the opposition had to pick their poison, do you double-team Kobe and watch Shaq get 40 or do you double Shaq and watch Kobe get 40?
After Shaq left, the Lakers went through a down period before acquiring Lamar Odom, Artest and Pau Gasol. They won another championship (Jackson’s 11th and last) before getting dominated in playoffs last season by the Dallas Mavericks. Jackson decided to call it a career after that loss.
Jackson won five championships with the Lakers and that team with Kobe and Shaq probably should have won more and could have won more if it wasn’t for the oversized egos and in-fighting between the
If Phil Jackson decides to coach the Knicks it would be his biggest challenge as a coach yet. If he was able to lead them back to the Finals and win a championship that might be more impressive than the other 11.
The challenge is laid out there for Jackson and there is no denying he is the one the Knicks want. The ball is now in Jackson’s court, what will he do?