Championship Phil-Osophy: Will Phil Jackon's Legacy Be Genius or Fraud?

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IMay 28, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 17:  Phil Jackson, head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, speaks at a press conference prior to Game One of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns in the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Let me start by saying this. I'm a fan of Phil Jackson, I believe in the coach and the man who has led two different teams to nine NBA championships combined. He was not only a great player in his own right during his playing days, but he's also one of the best basketball coaches of all time.

That being said, the argument over Phil Jackson's legacy will carry on for a long time to come. There are those that see him as nothing but a fraud because he inherited the best players in the game.

With the Chicago Bulls there was the best player this game has arguably ever seen. Michael Jordan carried the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles alongside guys like Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, John Paxton, and a host of others.

After his Jackson's tenure there was over, he would take a hiatus before resurfacing as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a team already loaded with talent with young superstars in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal alongside veterans like Ron Harper and Derek Fisher.

Phil Jackson has often been called the "Zen Master," bringing in the triangle offense and a zen-like mentality to the locker room. He's brought a truce to the deteriorating partnership of the aforementioned Bryant and O'Neal. He was able to get both players to play together for one common goal, something a coach is supposed to do.

He was also able to bring Michael Jordan around from being a prolific scorer to one of the best all-around players in the game. He got Jordan to trust his teammates and trust that, even when he couldn't play, his teammates would pick up the slack.

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So, knowing all that, why is Jackson still one of the most hated coaches in history? Why do so many people call Jackson a fraud and go as far as to say that he will leave Los Angeles after this season and resurface wherever LeBron James ends up?

I'm not going to play favorites here and just give one side to the argument. I can see what a lot of people are saying with the argument of having the best players in the game on his roster and inheriting ready-made championship teams.

Then, on the flip side, why couldn't Rudy Tomjanovich win an NBA title with Kobe and Shaq? They were the same players they were with Jackson, were they not? What about Pat Riley? He coached Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabar to NBA titles in Los Angeles, then coached Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O'Neal to an NBA title in Miami. Is he a fraud?

Why couldn't Jerry Sloan win an NBA title with John Stockton and Karl Malone? Greg Popovich won NBA titles with guys like David Robinson and Tim Duncan, does that make him a potential fraud? What about Mike Brown, why couldn't he win an NBA championship with LeBron James?

I know there are so many haters out there that will call Jackson even more of a fraud if he does resurface as LeBron James' next head coach and ends up winning an NBA title with him. But if Jackson can help LeBron get to the top, why couldn't Mike Brown?

Everyone's opinion is different and no opinions are going to be the same when it comes to this topic. But instead of calling Jackson a fraud, why not respect the job that he's done with the players he's been given?

Sure he's coached Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal, but let's not forget the players that surrounded those players. There's no question that Jordan and Bryant could take over a game when they wanted to, but without the surrounding players, would their legacies be the same?

Los Angeles Laker fans are loving the Phil Jackson tenure and why wouldn't they? He's brought the feeling they once had with "showtime" in the late 80's back to Los Angeles. He's been the only coach to bring championships to Los Angeles that the Clippers, Dodgers, and Kings have long since been void of.

The only questions that remain now are, will the Lakers bring one more NBA title to Los Angeles and, if so, will Phil Jackson return to the Lakers' bench?

The latter seems to be the one question that will hang over the Staples Center until Jackson makes his decision. Most believe he will return but most are biting their nails just hoping he'll be back.

Phil Jackson's legacy speaks for itself. Regardless of who he coached and how good those players were, the truth of the matter is, Jackson wasn't the only coach that coached these specific players and the others didn't get the job done.

There's a lot to be said for what Jackson's been able to accomplish. When he finally does ride off into the sunset for the final time, he may be known as one of the best NBA coaches of all time.

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