Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Is Phil Jackson the best coach in NBA history or just lucky?

jacksonThe man who’s become known as the “Zen Master” for tapping Buddhist teachings has been fortunate enough to coach the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant as they grew into dominant superstars, but rounding their games into championship form was a never-ending battle of wills.

In his 2006 memoir, Jackson refers to Kobe as “uncoachable” for his tendency to try to win games as a solo artist. After breaking the late Red Auerbach’s record to stand alone as the first coach to win 10 NBA championships, Jackson paid tribute to Bryant for his maturity as he accepted his very first MVP award.

Jackson recalled a long-ago game in Toronto when Bryant engaged in a one-on-one battle with Vince Carter that “took the Lakers out of their team play”. Shortly after, Bryant told Jackson “I’m ready to be captain right now”, and Jackson replied “but no one is ready to follow you”.

Jackson learned his lessons from the Knicks team he played on, which won the 1973 title, and from his coach, Red Holzman: individual sacrifice for the good of the group. It has been the cornerstone of his coaching philosophy.