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Philip Douglas "Phil" Jackson (born September 17, 1945 in Deer Lodgemarker, Montanamarker) is a former American professional basketball player and the current coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). His reputation was established as head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 through 1998; during his tenure, Chicago won six NBA titles. His next team, the Los Angeles Lakers, won four NBA titles from 2000 to 2009. In total, Jackson has won 10 NBA titles as a coach, surpassing a record he had shared with Red Auerbach.

Jackson is known for his use of Tex Winter's triangle offense as well as a holistic approach to coaching that is influenced by Eastern philosophy, earning him the nickname "Zen Master". (Jackson cites Robert Pirsig's book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as one of the major guiding forces in his life.) He also applies Native American spiritual practices as documented in his book Sacred Hoops. He is the author of several candid books about his teams and his basketball strategies. Jackson is also a recipient of the state of North Dakotamarker's Roughrider Award. In 2007 Jackson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Famemarker. Jackson regularly attempts to alter his appearance so the media cannot use old photos of him for recent news, and, true to his word, as of September 2008, he was no longer sporting his mustache (originally black then white with age), which saw 9 NBA titles.

In 1998, as part of celebrations for the National Basketball Association's 50th anniversary, Jackson was named one of the 10 greatest coaches in league history.

Early years

Both of Jackson's parents, Charles and Elisabeth Jackson, were Assemblies of God ministers. In the churches that they served, his father generally preached on Sunday mornings and his mother on Sunday evenings. Eventually, his father became a ministerial supervisor. Phil, his two brothers, and his half-sister grew up in an extremely austere environment, in which no dancing or television (once the first TV station in the remote area where they lived was established) were allowed. Jackson did not see his first movie until he was a senior in high school, and went to a dance for the first time in college.

Phil Jackson attended high school in Williston, North Dakotamarker where he played varsity basketball and led the team to two state titles. He also played football, was a pitcher on the baseball team, and threw the discus in track and field competitions. His older brother Chuck speculated years later that the three Jackson sons, including Phil, threw themselves passionately into athletics because it was the only time they were allowed to do what other children were doing. Phil attracted the attention of several baseball scouts. Their notes found their way to future NBA coach Bill Fitch, who had previously coached baseball, and had been doing some scouting for the Atlanta Braves. Fitch took over as head basketball coach at the University of North Dakota in the spring of 1962, during Jackson's junior year of high school.

After dinner and a movie over a glass of wine, Bill Fitch successfully recruited Jackson to UND, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. Jackson did well there, helping the Fighting Sioux to third- and fourth-place finishes in the NCAA Division II tournament in his sophomore and junior years (1965 and 1966). Both years, they were beaten by Southern Illinois. This was the era in which Jackson's future Knicks teammate Walt Frazier was the Salukis' biggest star, but the two only faced off in 1965, as Frazier was academically ineligible in 1966. In college, Jackson majored in Religion, Philosophy, and Psychology.

In Williston, North Dakotamarker, where Jackson attended high school, a sports complex is named after him.

NBA playing career

In 1967, Jackson was drafted in the second round by the New York Knicks. While he was a good all-around athlete, with unusually long arms, he was very limited offensively. He compensated for his offensive limitations with sheer intelligence and hard work, especially on defense, and eventually established himself as a fan favorite and one of the NBA's leading substitutes. He was a top reserve on the Knicks team that won the NBA title in 1973 (Jackson missed being part of New York's 1970 championship season due to spinal fusion surgery, however, he authored a book entitled "Take It All" which was a photo diary of the Knicks' 1970 Championship run). Soon after the second title, several key starters of the championship teams retired, eventually forcing Jackson into the starting lineup. He lived in Leonia, New Jerseymarker. After going across the Hudson to the New Jersey Nets in 1978 and playing there for two seasons, he retired from play in 1980.

In the 1974-75 NBA season, the Knicks' Phil Jackson and the Milwaukee Bucks' Bob Dandridge shared the lead for total personal fouls, with 330 each.


In the following years, he mainly coached in lower-level professional leagues, notably the Continental Basketball Association and Puerto Rico's National Superior Basketball (BSN). While in the CBA, he won his first coaching championship, leading the Albany Patroons to their first CBA title. In Puerto Rico, he coached the Quebradillas Pirates and the Isabela Fighting-Cocks, both teams with great tradition in the league. He regularly sought an NBA job, but was invariably turned down; during his playing years, he had acquired a reputation for being sympathetic to the counterculture, which may have scared off potential NBA employers. Most notably, while still playing for the Knicks in 1975, he had detailed his experimentation with LSD in an early autobiography, Maverick.

Chicago Bulls

Jackson was hired as assistant coach for the Bulls in 1987, and promoted to head coach in 1989. It was around this time that he met Tex Winter and became a devotee of Winter's triangle offense. Over 9 seasons, Jackson coached the Bulls to 6 championships in impressive fashion, twice winning three straight championships over separate three year periods. The "three-peat" was the first since the Boston Celtics won eight titles in a row from 1959 through 1966.

Jackson and the Bulls made the playoffs every year, and failed to win the title only three times. Jackson lost in his first season in 1990. Michael Jordan's first retirement after the 1993 season marked the end of the first "three-peat," and although Jordan returned just before the 1995 playoffs, it was not enough to prevent a playoff exit to the rising Orlando Magic.

The chemistry developed between Jackson and the players was one of the best in NBA history. The respect shared between the players and the coach was the key factor in being able to build up a dynasty. While Jordan was already long considered the most dominant player, Jackson was also credited as one of the most important elements in the Bulls' championships and his work earned him league-wide recognition. His relationship with Michael Jordan is considered to be one of the greatest player-coach relationship in NBA history, with Jackson claiming multiple times that Jordan was the greatest player he ever coached.

Regardless of the success Jackson shared with his team, the tension between Jackson and Bulls general manager Jerry Krause grew. Some believed that Krause felt under-recognized for his work in building the Bulls up into a championship team, being envious of the attention received by Jordan and Jackson. In particular, Krause believed that Jackson was indebted to him because Jackson received his first NBA coaching job from Krause. Some examples of the tension include:

  • During the summer of 1997, Krause's stepdaughter got married. All of the Bulls assistant coaches and their wives were invited to the wedding, as was Tim Floyd, then the head coach at Iowa State, whom Krause was openly courting as Jackson's successor (and who would eventually succeed Jackson). Jackson and his wife at the time, June, were not even told of the wedding, much less invited, only finding out about the event when the wife of assistant Bill Cartwright asked June what she would be wearing to the reception.
  • After contentious negotiations between Jackson and the Bulls in that same period, Jackson was signed for the 1997-98 season only. Krause announced the signing in what Chicago media widely considered to be a mean-spirited manner, emphasizing that Jackson would not be rehired even if the Bulls won the 1997-98 title. That triggered an argument between Jackson and Krause in which Jackson essentially told Krause that he seemed to be rooting for the other side and not the Bulls. At that point, Krause told Jackson, "I don't care if it's 82-and-0 this year, you're fucking gone."
  • Krause publicly portrayed Jackson as a two-faced character who had very little regard for his assistant coaches, a perception that certain Krause associates in the Bulls organization had sought to spread about Jackson. At the height of the hard feelings in the spring of 1998, one of Krause's scouts went to press row in Chicago's United Centermarker to explain to a reporter the insidious nature of Jackson's ego. (excerpt from the Phil Jackson biography Mindgames)

After the Bulls' final title of the Jordan era in 1998, Jackson left the team vowing never to coach again. However, after taking a year off, he decided to give it another chance with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999.

Los Angeles Lakers

Jackson took over a talented but troubled Lakers team and immediately produced results. In his first year in L.A., the Lakers went 67-15 during the regular season to top the league. Reaching the conference finals, they dispatched the Portland Trail Blazers in a tough seven-game series and then won the 2000 NBA championship by beating the Indiana Pacers.

With the talented superstar duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, the strong supporting cast of Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Devean George, Robert Horry, and Brian Shaw, and the assistance of former Bulls Horace Grant, Ron Harper, and John Salley, Jackson would lead the Lakers to two additional titles in 2001 and 2002, against the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, adding up to a three-peat. The main serious challenge the Lakers faced was from their conference rival, the Sacramento Kings.

However, injuries, weak bench play, and full-blown public tension between Bryant and O'Neal eventually slowed the team down, and they were beaten in the second round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.

Afterward, Jackson clashed frequently with Bryant. While remarkably efficient in Jackson's "triangle offense", Bryant had a personal distaste for Jackson's brand of basketball and subsequently called it "boring." In games, Bryant would often disregard the set offense completely to experiment with his own one-on-one moves, incensing the normally calm Jackson. Bryant managed to test Jackson's patience enough that the "Zen Master" even demanded that Bryant be traded, although Laker management rejected the request.

Prior to the 2003–04 season, the Lakers signed NBA star veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who had been franchise players for the Utah Jazz and the Seattle SuperSonics, respectively, leading to predictions by some that the team would finish with the best record in NBA history. But from the first day of training camp, the Lakers were beset by distractions. Bryant's rape trial, continued public sniping between O'Neal and Bryant, and repeated disputes between Jackson and Bryant all affected the team during the season. Despite these distractions, the Lakers beat the defending champion Spurs en route to advancing to the NBA Final and were heavy favorites to regain the title. However, they were stunned by the Detroit Pistons, who utterly dominated the series and defeated the Lakers four games to one.

On June 18, 2004, three days after Jackson had suffered his first-ever loss in an NBA Finals series as a head coach, the Lakers announced that Jackson would leave his position as Lakers coach. Many fans attributed Jackson's departure directly to the wishes of Bryant, as Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss reportedly sided with Bryant. Jackson, Bryant and Buss all denied that Bryant had made any explicit demand regarding Jackson. However, O'Neal, upon hearing General Manager Mitch Kupchak's announcement of the team's willingness to trade O'Neal and its intention to keep Bryant, indicated that he felt the franchise was indeed pandering to Bryant's wishes with the departure of Jackson. O'Neal's trade to the Miami Heat was the end of the "Trifecta" that had led the Lakers to three championship titles.

That fall, Jackson released The Last Season, a book which describes his point of view of the tensions that surrounded the 2003–04 Lakers team. The book was pointedly critical of Kobe Bryant; at one point, Jackson called Bryant "uncoachable."

Without Jackson and O'Neal the Lakers were forced to become a faster paced team on the court. Though they achieved some success in the first half of the season, injuries to several players including stars Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom forced the team out of contention, going 34-48 in 2004–05 and missing the playoffs for the first time in eleven years. Jackson's successor as coach, Rudy Tomjanovich, resigned midway through the season, citing health issues, immediately leading to speculation that the Lakers might bring Jackson back.

On June 15, 2005, the Lakers rehired Phil Jackson. Jackson took a Laker squad that was mediocre, aside from superstar Kobe Bryant, and led them to a seventh-seed playoff berth. Once again promoting the notion of selfless team play embodied by the triangle offense, the team achieved substantial results, especially in the last month of the season. Jackson also worked seamlessly with Bryant, who had earlier shown his willingness to bring back Jackson to the bench. Bryant's regular-season performance won him the league scoring title and made him a finalist in MVP voting. However, the Lakers faced a tough 2006 first-round matchup against the second-seeded Phoenix Suns, who were led by eventual MVP winner Steve Nash. It was the first time that Jackson's team had failed to reach the second round of the playoffs. The Lakers jumped out to a 3-1 lead following a dramatic last second shot by Bryant in overtime to win game four, but the Suns recovered to win the last three and take the series. Many consider the seven game contest to be among the greatest first-round series in NBA history.

Jackson's main tactical contribution, both with the Bulls and the Lakers, was the modernization of the triangle offense. He is also noted as a gifted handler of difficult players, such as Dennis Rodman. Jackson currently makes $10,000,000 a year, making him the highest paid coach in NBA history.

On January 7, 2007, Jackson won his 900th game, currently placing him 9th on the all-time win list for NBA coaches. With this win, Jackson became the fastest to reach 900 career wins, doing so in only 1,264 games and beating Pat Riley's previous record of 900 in 1,278 games.

On December 12, 2007, after announcing he would return to his position as coach just a few days prior, Phil Jackson inked a 2-year contract extension to continue his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers through the end of the 2009-2010 season.

He coached the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. Boston won the series in game 6 of the NBA finals, beating the Lakers in the final game in Boston.

On Christmas Day of 2008, Jackson became the 6th coach to win 1000 games, with the Lakers defeating the Celtics in their first match up of the 2008-2009 season after losing to them in the 2008 NBA Finals. He was the fastest to win 1000 games surpassing Pat Riley who had taken 11 more games than Jackson.

The Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals 4-1 clinching his 10th NBA championship as a coach. Jackson is also 5 wins away from becoming the coach with the most playoffs wins in the Lakers franchise.

Jackson has a total of 12 NBA championship rings: two as a player with the New York Knicks, six as coach of the Bulls, and four as coach of the Lakers. Ten NBA championships as a head coach lets him stand alone as the all-time leader in that category. Phil Jackson also holds the best playoff winning percentage of all-time. As of the end of the 2008–09 NBA season, Jackson's regular season record stands at 1041-435. After the 2009 NBA Postseason, Jackson's teams are now 44-0 in series where they win Game 1.

Motivational techniques

Along with being called the "Zen Master," Jackson is known as the master of mind games.

In addition, in the 2001 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Jackson had Tyronn Lue, a player on the Lakers team who was comparable in size and height to Sixers star Allen Iverson, wear a sock on his arm during Lakers practice to simulate Iverson's use of a compression arm sleeve as part of his regular gametime attire. Philadelphia media considered this to be a mind game tactic of Jackson's, but the main idea was to simulate what a game against Iverson is like, right down to the tattoos and cornrows (which Lue also had).

Coaching record

Jackson has had a winning season every year as a head coach. Along with his NBA-record ten championships, he is the first and only coach to win ten championships in any of North America's major sports.

82 55 27 .671 2nd in Central 16 10 6
Lost in Conference Finals
82 61 21 .744 1st in Central 17 15 2
Won NBA Championship
82 67 15 .817 1st in Central 22 15 7
Won NBA Championship
82 57 25 .695 1st in Central 19 15 4
Won NBA Championship
82 55 27 .671 2nd in Central 10 6 4
Lost in Conference Semifinals
82 47 35 .573 3rd in Central 10 5 5
Lost in Conference Semifinals
82 72 10 .878 1st in Central 18 15 3
Won NBA Championship
82 69 13 .841 1st in Central 19 15 4
Won NBA Championship
82 62 20 .756 1st in Central 21 15 6
Won NBA Championship
Did not coach
Los Angeles
82 67 15 .817 1st in Pacific 23 15 8
Won NBA Championship
Los Angeles
82 56 26 .683 1st in Pacific 16 15 1
Won NBA Championship
Los Angeles
82 58 24 .707 2nd in Pacific 19 15 4
Won NBA Championship
Los Angeles
82 50 32 .610 2nd in Pacific 12 6 6
Lost in Conference Semifinals
Los Angeles
82 56 26 .683 1st in Pacific 22 13 9
Lost in NBA Finals
Did not coach
Los Angeles
82 45 37 .549 3rd in Pacific 7 3 4
Lost in First Round
Los Angeles
82 42 40 .512 2nd in Pacific 5 1 4
Lost in First Round
Los Angeles
82 57 25 .695 1st in Pacific 21 14 7
Lost in NBA Finals
Los Angeles
82 65 17 .793 1st in Pacific 23 16 7
Won NBA Championship
Los Angeles
15 13 3 .813 In progress 0 0 0
1492 1054 438 .706 300 209 91

Books by Phil Jackson


  1. Online NewsHour: Court Zen- June 16, 2000
  2. Facts and History, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
  3. 1974-75 NBA Player Register,
  4. NBA Finals 2001

External links

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