Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach: Who Will Get His Due as the Greatest of All Time?

Mark HauserCorrespondent IIFebruary 18, 2009

Boston's Red Auerbach is the God of basketball coaches. 

He receives nothing but praise and is considered the greatest NBA coach in history. 

There does not seem to be any debate about it.  It is almost as if it would be blasphemy to suggest otherwise. 

Well, I think it is time to start a debate. 

And if you live anywhere in the world outside of Boston, this debate is long overdue.

The reason Phil Jackson has never gotten his due is because some people think he has ridden the coattails of Jordan and Pippen and Kobe and Shaq.  A Boston street cleaner could have coached Michael Jordan to six championships, supposedly. 

Being a huge Jordan fan I have to say (in order to be consistent logically), fair enough.  However, Auerbach had Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Bill Sharman, and Tom Heinsohn.  Perhaps you have heard of them.

Now, let me throw some statistics your way:

NBA titles: nine each (unless the Lakes win the NBA Title this year, then Jackson, 10);

NBA regular season winning percentage:  Jackson .704, Auerbach .659;

NBA playoff winning percentage: Jackson .699, Auerbach .603;

NBA regular season wins:  Jackson 1005, Auerbach 823;

NBA playoffs wins:  Jackson 193, Auerbach 91;

NBA Finals record, series, won-lost:  Jackson 9-2, Auerbach 9-1;

Number of teams in the NBA (when their championships were won):  Jackson 28.3, Auerbach eight;

NBA Coach of the Year Honors:  one each.

No matter how you slice it, Jackson comes out on top or is tied with Auerbach in every important coaching statistic I could think of (except for a slight edge to Auerbach for Finals record). 

I am too young (I am a young 48) to have witnessed Auerbach's coaching brilliance, however, I am certainly not doubting it.  Jackson's coaching I have witnessed and it has been, well, brilliant.  All things considered, I am not sure who is the more brilliant coach—however, it is a lot closer than most people think. 

Sorry, Boston. A Celtic (Russell, Bird) is no longer the greatest basketball player of all time, and maybe, just maybe, Auerbach is not the greatest NBA coach of all time.  What blasphemy!

Well, at least you still have Bill Belichick, who in the last year year has earned the reputation as the most dishonest and unethical coach in sport's history.  But, do not feel too bad Boston—your teams actually win championships and I live in Philly.  'Nuff said.