With Phil Jackson closing in on his tenth title passing Red Auerbach for all time championships, Phil has always been regarded as the greatest coach in the past 20 years. However Is Phil the best coach no matter the situation, well that is my question and I have, is Phil the best coach no matter the situation.
Well I don’t think so and there are two guys I would take over Phil if starting a franchise, Larry Brown, and Pat Riley. Although Brown only has one title and Pat Riley has five titles, both have managed in different situations and got it done.
If you question me look at the records which are fairly similar Larry Brown is 1020- 815, Pat Riley is 1210-694, and Phil Jackson is 1041-435. I will compare both to Jackson to show you why maybe you wouldn’t take Phil Jackson over Larry Brown and Pat Riley when starting a franchise from scratch.
Phil Jackson vs. Larry Brown
Larry Brown is more known for his bouncing around from team to team than his consistent winning, he is the only coach to ever coach two different teams in the same season, the Spurs and Clippers in the 1992-1993 season.
However Brown is the only coach in NBA history to lead seven different NBA franchises to the playoffs.
Brown took average teams like the 76ers and in his fourth year with Philly, he took them to the NBA finals.
Many people credit Allen Iverson for that finals run, however without Brown Iverson never had the same success, he never won another MVP award and never returned to the NBA finals, the same could not be said for Brown as he won a championship on a Pistons team that was ready.
The gap between Phil and Larry Brown is much smaller than you think in fact to me it is very small, there is a reason that Larry only has one championship to show for and that is because he likes taking the bad team and rejuvenating the franchise, he is up for those challenges.
Phil however has coached some of the greatest teams assembled like the Jordan-Pippen Bulls or the current Lakers; he will probably retire as soon as he realizes the Lakers can’t compete for a championship anymore.
When Shaq left L.A and the franchise was in turmoil, after losing against Brown’s Pistons, Phil left L.A and was in no mood for rebuilding a franchise, a task Brown was born to do. For this reason Phil would retire as soon as he realizes the Lakers can’t compete anymore.
Head to head in the finals Phil won the first one with a clearly better Lakers team against the Sixers, however Larry took a Pistons team that was an underdog and beat the Lakers.
Look at what Larry has done in Philly, Indiana, and Detroit; in fact Brown led Charlotte to its best ever year, barley missing the playoffs.
Phil is a great babysitter in my mind, the Zen Master is what he is, a good coach in the right situation. Larry Brown likes to take the less glamorous situation and make it a good one, Phil takes a good situation and gets it over the hump, obviously the success rate for Brown will be much lower.
Now I have heard people that will say that in no way they would take Larry over Phil if starting a franchise from scratch, Phil will never take the challenge and that is why we will never know.
Advantage: Larry Brown never coached Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, and took seven different NBA franchises to the playoffs.
Pat Riley vs. Phil Jackson
Pat Riley has been one of my favorite coaches simply because he is the coach that will go with the flow; Phil Jackson can only coach one brand of basketball, the triangle offense, if it’s not working we have a problem, Pat Riley coached the Showtime Lakers, one of the greatest teams to ever be assembled.
Led by Magic Johnson these Lakers went on to win four championships in a decade.
Then you look at the Knicks of the '90s, they could not run up the court like the Showtime Lakers, instead Riley stuck with what he had and went with what he had, he turned the team into a hardnosed basketball team led by the great Patrick Ewing, that team played a tough brand of basketball, opposite to the glamorous Showtime Lakers.
However the team never won a championship due to Phil Jackson’s Bulls always blocking their path as they made it to the finals once in 1993-1994.
Phil’s triangle offense relies on a superstar whether it’s Jordan or Kobe, a quality big man although Jordan never played with a great center, and quality role players like Derek Fisher and Steve Kerr making big threes.
Then you look at Riley’s Heat team which was a mixture of the Showtime Lakers and the hardnosed Knicks, Dwayne Wade and Jason Williams, or throwing down to Shaq and Alonzo in the paint.
Riley has the ability to take a team and play to the team’s style, not his personal style. Although Phil is about to have double as many titles as Pat Riley, the gap is indeed thin.
Advantage: This was the one I could not decide but if starting a franchise I would have to take Pat Riley, Riley would find the brand of basketball that they can flourish in although this was one of the toughest decisions to make.
Had Larry Brown stayed with one team he built like the Sixers, he may have built a dynasty like Phil and Pat Riley. Had Phil took the challenge of building a team from scratch like Larry Brown, we would have had a better idea of how good a coach Phil Jackson is.
However when it comes to starting a team from scratch I would have to go with Pat Riley, if I would be assured that Larry Brown would stay with my team I would go with Brown, but that it like asking Shaq to make his free throws, it won’t happen.