Lakers' Phil Jackson: Overrated or Unappreciated?

Gabriel TaylorAnalyst IMay 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES - APRIL 12: Head coach Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers shouts instructions during the game with the Memphis Grizzlies on April 12, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 92-75. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Someone just looked at the photo and immediately said: OVER-RATED!

Someone else looked and saw the greatest coach of this era.

Tex Winter just called the police and filed a report against Jackson for theft of his triangle offense and legacy.

Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal just called to say they love the guy so much they wouldn't play for anyone else—Umm—I guess they took that one back.

Thus, the two sides are divided and the lines have been drawn. 

Is he the NBA's greatest coach of all time or is he just the luckiest S.O.B. this side of Michael Jordan?

It's not hard for some to dislike Phil Jackson. From 1991 to 2002, Jackson won nine NBA titles. Followers had only one choice: jump on the bandwagon or be run over in the playoffs.

He is well known for his philosophic approach to basketball and the mind games he plays with players and the media. His complaints about game calls often lead to favorable calls in the following game.

Beyond the mind games, though, Jackson is a great coach.

He helped take the monkey off of Michael Jordan's and Shaquille O'Neal's respective backs.

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Jackson has a unique ability to bring out the best in average or underachieving players. Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and countless others thrived under his tutelage and struggled after they left his teams.

After winning two NBA championships on New York Knicks teams featuring Walter "Clyde" Frazier and Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, he honed an the ability to deal with super-sized personalities.

Before Joe Torre suffered with the pompous attitudes of Gary Sheffield, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez, Phil Jackson used gloves to handle the delicate egos of Pippen, Jordan, O'Neal, and a teenaged Kobe Bryant.

It's often stated that Jackson has been very lucky to work in the big markets of Los Angeles and Chicago while coaching some of the greatest players in NBA history.

However, Jackson worked his way to becoming a head coach in the NBA by barnstorming in the CBA and as an assistant coach for several years.

How do you root for the highest paid coach in America—at $10 million a year—who just happens to be married to his owner's daughter?

You remember the guy who played hard-nosed defense as a player. You acknowledge the man who recommends specific books to certain players for motivation.

The same man who knows that rules must be different for different players.

But how do you dislike a man with nine NBA championship rings?

You remind yourself this whistler couldn't beat the Boston Celtics in 2008 or the Pistons in 2004 when he had arguably better talent on his team. You comfort yourself with the fact that Bulls timeouts in 1998 and Kobe Doin' Work seemed to show that there was a coach and a de facto coach.

As for me, I'll take my chances with the guy who is susceptible to winning and allergic to losing.  


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