11 for the Zen Master: Interesting Phil Jackson Facts
Phil Jackson won his NBA record 11th title in 19 seasons as a head coach (six with the Chicago Bulls, five with the Los Angeles Lakers) last night.
Many fans and viewers consider him the greatest coach in NBA history. Jackson’s career is full of records and milestones.
Here are 11 interesting Phil Jackson facts in honor of his 11 titles.
Not once have his teams missed the playoffs in 19 seasons. That’s right, people, Jackson's teams have always finished in the top eight of their respective conference.
Jackson’s worst campaign came during the 2006-07 season, when the Lakers went 42-40.
Jackson's teams have always ended the regular season with a winning record.
Jackson won less than 50 games in a season three times.
The first game
The first game of a playoffs series of Jackson-coached teams is very important.
When his team wins the first game of a playoff series, they always win that series.
This is not about two or three playoff series. We are talking about a coach that has reached the playoffs for 19 consecutive seasons.
When you see this undefeated record, you’ll be amazed.
You’ll find yourself asking, "How is that possible? How is it possible that not once has his team failed to win the series after winning the first game?
Phil Jackson’s record in playoffs series as coach when his team wins the first game: 48-0
Just like the first game of a playoff series is important for Jackson coached teams, taking the lead in a playoff series at any time is also important.
This was an impressive undefeated record by Jackson, just like his first game undefeated record.
Unfortunately, the streak was snapped in 2006, when the Phoenix Suns rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Lakers in the Western Conference first round.
Phil Jackson’s record in playoffs series as coach when his team takes the lead in a series (before 2006): 43-0
Overall record: 54-1
Home-court advantage is good for any team.
But Jackson-coached teams have made the most out of the advantage.
Until the 2004 NBA Finals, when the Detroit Pistons beat the Lakers, Jackson-coached teams always won a playoff series when they had home-court advantage.
Overall record: 46-1
The first seed
Jackson has won 12 division titles, and each of those teams has made the NBA Finals. In those 12 Finals appearances, Jackson has won 10 times.
So if a Jackson-coached team wins a Division title, a Finals appearance is a huge possibility.
The Conference title for Jackson’s team is much like the Division title. His teams have won nine Conference titles.
They reached the NBA Finals in those nine seasons and won eight titles.
Jackson’s teams had the best record in the entire league a total of five times. His teams have won the NBA championship in each of those five years.
In other words, there’s a huge possibility that a first seed for a Jackson-coached team in a division, conference, or the entire league results in a championship.
Jackson has seven 60-win seasons as a coach, which ties him with Pat Riley for most all-time.
In each of those seven seasons, his team has won the NBA championship.
Jackson has won 11 NBA Championships as a head coach (6 with Bulls, 5 with Lakers).
Every time his teams win a championship for a first time, they always repeat the next season.
When he won his first championship as a coach in 1991, his team (Bulls) won in 1992 and 1993, completing a “three-peat” (winning 3 straight titles).
When the Bulls won again in 1996, they repeated in 1997 and 1998, completing yet another “three-peat”. When his Lakers won in 2000, they completed ANOTHER “three-peat” for Jackson when they won in 2001 and 2002 as well.
When Jackson’s Lakers won in 2009, they repeated a title in 2010.
After seeing this trend of titles, one should ask, "Will Jackson complete another “three-peat” in 2011? The answer is more likely yes, because history has shown us that he “three-peats” every time his team wins a title.
But let’s stick to the “repeat” instead of the “three-peat” because we are not in 2011 yet.
Jackson has a total of seven “repeat title” seasons and he has never failed to repeat after winning a first title. Since he won his first title as a coach in 1991, two coaches have been able to coach their teams to straight titles.
Jackson is one of them.
Rudy Tomjanovich also accomplished this feat when the Houston Rockets won two straight titles in 1994 & 1995.
So Rudy repeated one time, whereas Jackson has done it seven times. The only other coach to repeat seven times is Red Auerbach when the Celtics won eight
Pat Riley repeated one time, just like Rudy, and Gregg Popovich has never repeated.
Jackson is not just a coach. He’s a career savior.
He has coached great players that had great individual careers, but who were missing a championship on their résumé.
The following players struggled in the playoffs in Jackson's absence.
Before Jackson became his coach, Michael Jordan struggled greatly during the regular season and playoffs.
In his five seasons before Jackson came, he had three losing seasons, one 50-win season, and one Conference Finals appearance.
During Jackson’s second season as the Bulls coach, Jordan won his first NBA championship.
Before Jackson, Jordan was just a great player with great stats on a team that was always eliminated in the playoffs.
By the time Jackson left the Bulls in 1998, Jordan was a six-time NBA Champion and a six-time Finals MVP.
Shaquille O’Neal was a beast during the regular season, but his team always failed in the playoffs.
Before Jackson became his coach, O’Neal had only tasted defeat, just like Jordan did.
His team was swept five times in the playoffs and they reached the NBA Finals one time (1995).
With Jackson as his coach, O’Neal was never swept in the playoffs. Instead, his team swept their opponents five times.
By the time Jackson left the team in 2004, O’Neal was a three-time NBA Champion and a three-time Finals MVP.
“It was something I needed in my life. I was sort of a great player that didn’t have any championships. Ever since I met Phil, I have three.” O’Neal said.
O’Neal’s story could be applied to Kobe Bryant as well, because they were teammates.
But Bryant’s role as a player changed when O’Neal left the team in 2004. The problem was that Jackson also left the team in 2004.
During 2004-05, Bryant struggled without Jackson and O’Neal. And for the first time in his career, his team had a losing season (34-48) and missed the playoffs.
Bryant was in a need of help and that’s when Jackson, the career savior, returned to the team.
When Jackson returned for the 2005-06 season, the Lakers were back in the playoffs with a winning record (45-37).
In just three seasons, the Lakers were back in the NBA Finals. And in the following season (2008-09), they were champions again.
Since Jackson’s return to the team in 2005, Bryant is a two-time NBA Champion and a two-time Finals MVP.
Scottie Pippen, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Ron Artest are some of the other players that have experienced a championship for the first time thanks to Jackson’s abilities as a coach.
Jackson is a career savior. He takes a player and turns him into a champion.
One thing is for sure when you talk about Phil Jackson. He's a winner.
During the pre-Jackson Jordan-era (five seasons), the Bulls had three losing seasons, three first-round eliminations, and one 50-win season.
Jackson became the Bulls coach in the 1989-90 season and left the team in 1998.
During that time (nine seasons), the Bulls had one 70-win season, five 60-win seasons, eight 50-win seasons, nine winning seasons, six Division titles, five regular season conference championships.
They also made nine semifinals appearances, seven Conference Finals appearances, six NBA Finals appearances, and six NBA Championships.
Their regular season record was 545-193 (.738) and their playoffs record was 111-41 (.730).
During the pre-Jackson Shaq-era (three seasons), the Lakers were a talented team. But they never reached the NBA Finals. Jackson became Lakers coach in 1999-00 and left the team in 2004.
During this time (five seasons), the Lakers had one 60-win season, five 50-win seasons, five Semifinals appearances, three Division titles, one conference regular season, one NBA regular season title, four Finals appearances, and three NBA Championships.
Their regular season record was 287-123 (.700) and their playoff record was 64-28 (.695).
Before Jackson returned to coach the Lakers in 2005, they won 34 games in the 2004-05 season and missed the playoffs.
Since his return (five seasons), the Lakers have one 60-win season, three 50-win seasons, three Division titles, three regular season conference titles, five playoffs appearances, three Finals appearances and two NBA Championships.
Their regular season record is 266-144 (.648) and their playoff record is 50-29 (.632)
Jackson brings championships. He has coached for 19 seasons and has won at least 50 regular season games 16 times. He has coached in 63 playoff series, and has won 55 of them. That’s amazing.
This is what Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said during the 2009 NBA Finals:
"If I'm right, the guy has won 51 playoff series now. Check your record book and see how many coaches have even won 50 playoff games. It's fewer than 20 [actually 18] and this guy has won 51 playoff series. It's incomprehensible."
"And yeah, he's had great players, but the guy wins all the time. You can't give him short shrift.
I don't know Phil Jackson at all. You guys know him better than I do. But damn, you look at the guy's record. It's undeniable."
This is a summary of Jackson’s career displayed in numbers just to pay tribute to the greatest coach in NBA history. Some are NBA records.
19 consecutive playoffs appearances
14 consecutive Semifinals appearances
6 consecutive Conference Finals appearances
6 consecutive NBA Finals appearances
17 Semifinals appearances
14 Conference Finals appearances
13 NBA Finals appearances
7 seasons winning at least 60 regular season games
16 seasons winning at least 50 regular season games
12 times having the best record in a Division
9 times having the best record in a Conference
5 times having the best record in the NBA
6 consecutive NBA Championships
11 NBA Championships
1 Coach of the Year award
7 “repeat” titles
3 “three-peat” titles
Regular season record: 1,098-460 (.705)
Playoff record: 225-98 (.696)
Playoff series record: 55-8
Highest winning percentage in the regular season: .878 (72-10)
Highest winning percentage in the playoffs: .938 (15-1)
Longest regular season winning streak: 19
Longest playoff winning streak: 11
Number of double-digit winning streaks in the regular season: 16
Number of playoff sweeps: 17
Most consecutive First round series won: 14
Most consecutive Semifinals series won: 6
Most consecutive Conference Finals series won: 13
Most consecutive NBA Finals series won: 9
Most consecutive playoff series won: 25