Twelve finals appearances for the Lakers head coach Phil Jackson and zero Game Sevens. Is that even possible? Can that stat be accurate?
100 percent. Jackson has never coached a game seven in the NBA Finals. He’s won 10 of those 12 championships, but none required a closeout game when the series was tied at three apiece.
So, Phil is charting new territory. Will he respond along with his team? Can he seize the moment and remain poised?
The answer will be a commanding, yes. Jackson will approach this game like all other big games. He’ll use his unique style that has separated him from all other NBA legends.
Let’s look at the keys for Jackson to prepare and allow the Lakers to hoist another NBA trophy.
Jackson has the Lakers meditate before each game. “What is that?” the Celtics Big Baby Glen Davis asked.
Sounds silly? Try powerful. Like everything with Jackson, there is a purpose. And, this isn’t something new to Jackson and his coaching style. He had Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls do the exact same thing.
Basically, meditation involves quieting the mind, finding a state of relaxation among the chaos both internal and external. Jackson’s track record proves this must have merit. He wants his players calm, especially before the biggest game of their careers.
Jackson is a basketball junkie. He’s lived the game for over 40 years. He’s done it all, worked his way up from the nether regions of the sport to the pinnacle. He’s done it all his way, but when it comes down to it, he’s really a tactician.
He prepares his Lakers as hard as any other coach. It’s amazing he’s only won Coach of the Year once. Only one. We sure root for the underdog and not reward excellence.
That is another mind-numbing stat. In a series that is predicated on adjustments, Jackson usually gets the upper hand. He’ll always add a new wrinkle, call a play for someone like Ron Artest or change up his defensive assignments.
Jackson preaches execution like a southern minister preaching hell and fire. He is adamant about precision and flow. His triangle offense requires a high level of detail. And, it shows.
In wins, chances are the Lakers offense hummed like a vintage muscle car. In losses, the first area any fan can point to for the failure was offensive execution.
Everyone focuses on the great players Jackson has coached, or his classic triangle offense. But, he’s a defensive powerhouse.
Jordan’s Bulls won titles because they could defend. The Shaq/Kobe Lakers stopped people. This current iteration of the Lakers is at the top of the defense rankings in the league.
And, when the Lakers have gotten stops, really kept the Celtics out of what they want to do, they’ve won. In the losses in this series, it came down to the defensive side of the ball, not on offense.
Maybe this is tied to the whole meditation thing, but Jackson predicates his coaching style on poise. That's why you won’t see him call a tremendous amount of timeouts, at least in the regular season. He likes to say that he wants his players to work out their problems on their own.
This does teach poise, as the Lakers don’t get easily rattled, even on massive runs by the other team. Jackson will sit there and watch the action.
Rarely will he stem the tide by calling a timeout. It is a unique style and many a Lakers fan can be heard screaming at their TV for a T, but Jackson has the victories to back this up.
It all comes down to this. Jackson is coaching in his 13th NBA Finals.That’s even hard to write. He’s got 10 rings and should get his 11th tonight. Everyone wants to ding him for having great players and that is true.
But, remember, Jordan won nothing until Jackson. Shaq and Kobe couldn’t even get out of the Western Conference. And Kobe experienced his only losing season as a player without his Zen Master.
Everyone wants to say the Lakers winning or losing comes down to what Kobe does. And it is true in most aspects. But this Game Seven will also be about the coaches.
Jackson has the edge. He too might be in virgin territory, but he is the best at navigating when it counts.
The media loves to position him as a Zen Master and it is fun to play around with.
But Jackson is more drawn to Native American ways. So, he’s the really Lakers’ Shaman, their medicine man, getting them ready for the reign dance. Meditate on that.