“I probably would have no capability of absorbing a 60-defeat season as a coach. It would be a foreign experience. My whole career, even as a player, has been on winning basketball clubs and it just seems to have been a part of the make-up of what’s been given me. That’s what I’ve been given and that’s what I’ve had to deal with. Some people can make fun of it or some people can have a good time with it, or some people can resent it. It’s just what it is.” -- PHIL JACKSON, CBSSports.com, June 2004
"There's no question about [the] talent they (Miami) have. But, talent doesn't always win." -- PHIL JACKSON, ESPN Radio, 2010
This Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat do battle on the hardwood at the Staples Center. The pre-game hype and hoopla has a number of fascinating story lines, not the least of which is Phil Jackson’s mental approach to this regular season, playoff-feeling Christmas contest with the Heat.
It’s true the game is played on the court by the players.
Yet, it’s also true that psychology plays an important role. No one is better at verbal repartee than Jackson, the NBA’s all time leading coach, all star and zen master supreme.
This marks Jackson’s 20th (and probably last) season as a head coach.
He’s won a remarkable, record setting 11 NBA titles in the 19 years he’s been at the helm, six with the Chicago Bulls and five with the Lakers.
His detractors say it’s been easy for him because he had Michael Jordan in Chicago and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles.
His supporters argue that how you manage such supremely gifted, large ego players into playing as a team is a talent unto itself that only the best have mastered.
One thing we can all agree on: Phil Jackson loves to push the psychological envelope with players, referees, commissioners and other coaches.
Will it make a difference this Saturday when L.A. plays host to the Heat?
Let’s find out.