Is Phil Jackson a Great Coach or Just Plain Lucky?

Adam LawrenceContributor IJune 9, 2009

The Zen Master.

The man who has inherited some of the greatest teams in basketball.

With L.A.'s recent surge in the Finals, now more than ever, the question of Phil's legacy crossed my mind.

Many greats, such as Red Auerbach, have claimed Jackson to be one of the luckiest coaches in the history of sports.

And it's hard to disagree.

Now while I think Auerbach may have been a little off, (after all his championships in Boston consisted of some of the greatest to play the game and killed almost every opponent because of their sheer talent) Jackson has taken over teams that have consisted of arguably the three best players in the last generation: Shaq, Jordan, and Kobe.

So, if the Lakers do win the 2009 Championship and give Jackson his tenth title, should he go down as one of the greatest coaches, if not the greatest coach in history?

Well, first off, there are many phenomenal coaches who have not achieved Jackson's record of 10 Titles and are still, in my opinion, up for debate as the greatest coach in the history of the league.

To me, NBA Titles mean very little in regards to coaching.

Jackson and Auerbach had some of the greatest rosters in history, and unlike other professional sports such as football, keeping these teams together for dominant runs is much more feasible.

I think coaches like Jerry Sloan and Greg Poppovich are without a doubt almost on the same level as Jackson, and, while that may be unfair to say, they achieved greatness with their teams to a similar level that Jackson did with his.

However, for the first time in his career, Jackson has been a part of a rebuilding process in L.A.

He has constructed a championship team with players like Bynum and gotten the most out of underrated studs like Odom, and has kept Kobe in check for the time being while allowing the rest of his roster to develop.

It's been a long process, and while the addition of Gasol has sped things up for the Lakers, it's a testament to Phil Jackson that he can win with a rebuilding roster.

Personally, I dont' feel that Jackson is the greatest coach in the game.

In my opinion, it's Poppovich.

However, the same argument can coincide with his career as it did with Jackson's: He inherited Tim Duncan straight out of the draft.

That said, I think all of San Antonio's championships may have come through battling adversity and outplaying more talented opponents to a level Phil Jackson has never dealt with.

To me, this is the most promising of any of Phil's championships to secure his legacy as one of the greatest to ever step on the court.

If the Lakers do win this title, Phil will go down as a great, and rightfully so.

However, I have always thought that the Bulls teams he won with as well as the Lakers teams with the Shaq and Kobe duo were a matter of superior talent, not necessarily coaching ability.

I think if you gave those teams to either Poppovich, Sloan, or any other great coach they would have achieved similar success.

But Phil has made it work time and time again, and that's what impresses me the most.

He has structured different teams around a system of coaching that needs a star player like Jordan, Shaq, and now Kobe. And who knows what he could have achieved with other elite players in the NBA.

I think he could have had similar results with teams that had Wade, LeBron, Malone, or any other star from the eras he has coached in.

To me, coaching greatness comes from achieving something greater or better than what people thought was possible.

That's why Phil is so interesting.

He should have won at least six or seven championships with the rosters he had in the past, and by not winning that many, I would consider him to be a run-of-the-mill coach because of the talent he had.

That said, I feel like coaches such as Popovich have achieved far greater than what I thought was possible with teams that may not have been capable of winning four championships.

And even guys like Stan Van Gundy, who may not ever reach the pinnacle of coaching with a title ring, have still proved critics wrong and succeed with their teams.

And that's why I have such a problem with the Coach of the Year.

Guys like Mike Brown SHOULD win with LeBron nearing his peak, and they SHOULD be very successful.

To me, Phil is a great coach.

Winning, covering all ten of your fingers with rings obviously says something, and there is enough talent in the league where that outdoes some dynasties in the past.

But to crown the Zen Master the greatest of all time is a bit steep.

There are plenty of great coaches in the history of the league, and (in all honesty) not one of them should be given that title because it's such an ambiguous achievement.

And you never know, Orlando could still do something "Magic" to close out this series.



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