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Philip Douglas "Phil" Jackson (born September 17 1945 in Deer Lodge, Montana) is a National Basketball Association (NBA) coach and former player. He is tied with Red Auerbach for coaching a record number of NBA title-winning teams, with nine, and has one of the best post-season records. Jackson is one of three head coaches, aside from Alex Hannum and Pat Riley to win the NBA Finals with two different teams. Phil Jackson Quotes

He is known for his triangle offense ballplaying scheme as well as a holistic approach to coaching players, influenced by Eastern philosophy, notably Zen. The latter is the source of his sports media nickname: "The Zen Master". He is considered by many to be one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time.

New York Knicks

In 1967, Jackson was drafted by the New York Knicks as a player. He found that the skills that had served him well at the small-college level (The University of North Dakota) were all but useless in the NBA. While he was a good all-around athlete, with unusually long arms, he was limited as a shooter and did not have great speed. He compensated for his physical limitations with sheer intelligence and extremely 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). Soon after the second title, several key starters of the championship teams retired, eventually forcing Jackson into the starting lineup, where his limitations were exposed. He retired from play in 1980.


In the following years, he mainly coached in lower-level leagues, notably the Continental Basketball Association and the BSN of Puerto Rico. While in the CBA, he won his first coaching championship, leading the Albany Patroons to their first CBA title. 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 [1], which may have scared off potential NBA employers.

NBA coaching

Jackson was the head coach of the NBA's Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1998, and of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1999 to 2004 and again from 2005 to present. Jackson has a total of 10 NBA championship rings: one as a player with the New York Knicks (as noted earlier, he was injured for all of the 1969-70 championship season), six as coach of the Bulls, and three as coach of the Lakers. His nine NBA championships as a head coach ties him with Red Auerbach for the all-time lead in that category. Phil Jackson also holds the best playoff winning percentage of all-time. As of the end of the 2005-06 NBA season, Jackson's regular season record stands at 876-353.

Chicago Bulls

He finally earned an NBA job in 1987 as an assistant with the Bulls. It was at this time that Jackson met Tex Winter and became a devotee of Winter's triangle offense. In 1989 he was elevated to the head coaching job. In his nine years as Bulls coach, Jackson won six championships, losing only in 1990 (his first season), 1994 (when Michael Jordan temporarily retired from basketball), and 1995.

The chemistry between Jackson and his team was untouched and was on a level most coaches could only dream of. The respect shared between the players and the coach was a key factor to the championships they achieved.

Regardless of the strengths Jackson shared with his team, the tension between Jackson and Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, who had originally hired him, had a very negative impact. Krause was jealous 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 were not invited, and Krause did not tell them of the snub; they found out from the wife of assistant Bill Cartwright.
  • During contract negotiations for Jackson's final year with the Bulls, when the topic of a potential extension past the 1997–98 season came up, Krause reportedly told Jackson, "I don't care if you go 82-and-0, you're f****** gone."

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.

Los Angeles Lakers

Jackson took over a talented but underachieving 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.

Titles in 2001 and 2002 followed, against the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, adding up to a three-peat. The only serious challenge the Lakers faced was from their conference rivals, the Sacramento Kings. Many NBA observers believed that the Lakers were on the verge of becoming a dynasty.

However, injuries, weak bench play, and full-blown public tension between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal slowed the team down, and they were beaten in the second round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs by the 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 made 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, 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 Finals 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, the Lakers announced that Jackson would leave his position as Lakers coach. Many fans attributed Jackson's departure directly to the wishes of Bryant, whom Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss championed. 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, and among other unsavory adjectives, Jackson called Bryant "uncoachable." Some point out that as the book was written in the immediate aftermath of that season's disappointing finish, it may not necessarily reflect Jackson's opinions today.

Without Jackson and O'Neal, the Lakers struggled mightily, 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, immediately leading to speculation that the Lakers might bring Jackson back.

On June 15, 2005, the Lakers rehired Phil Jackson, after he had taken one year off from coaching and from the NBA. In what may be seen as his most significant coaching achievement to date, he took a Laker squad that was mediocre, aside from 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 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, but they lost the series as the Suns became the eighth team in NBA history to rally from such a deficit.

Jackson's main tactical contribution, both with the Bulls and with the Lakers, was the modernization of the triangle offense. He is also noted as a gifted handler of difficult players, notably Dennis Rodman and Kwame Brown.


  • Phil Jackson is a recipient of the state of North Dakota's Roughrider Award.
  • Jackson is in a long-term relationship with Jeannie Buss, the daughter of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
  • Jackson is an admitted fan of rock band Phish.
  • Jackson cites Robert Pirsig's book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as one of the major guiding forces in his life. His fond admiration for the book is the source of his nickname "The Zen Master."
  • Jackson never touches any fans before the game as he thinks it will disrupt his aura.
  • Jackson doesn't come out of the locker room until there is a minute or less until tip off. He does this so that he does not use up his good energy.


Along with being called the "Zen Master", Jackson is known as the master of mind games. In the Laker film room before the 2000 playoffs, Jackson displayed images of Edward Norton's character from the movie American History X, who has a bald head and a tattoo of a swastika, alternating with photos with Sacramento's white, shaved-headed and tattooed point guard, Jason Williams. Jackson then displayed pictures of Adolf Hitler alternately appearing with Sacramento coach Rick Adelman. When Rick Adelman's learned of this, he openly questioned Jackson's motivational techniques saying Jackson had "crossed the line". [2] Nevertheless, the Lakers went on to win the series and the championship.

Books by Phil Jackson



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Phil Jackson

NBA Debut: 1967

Final Game: 1980

Years in League: 12

Teams: *New York Knicks (1967-1978)

Career Statistics

  • Points Per Game: 6.7
  • Rebounds Per Game: 4.3
  • Assists Per Game: 1.1

Career Highlights

  • 9 NBA Championships:

College: University of North Dakota

Date of Birth: September 14, 1945

Place of Birth: Deer Lodge, Montana