With the recent death of coaching great John Wooden the focus on his blend of molding great players with big game brilliant presentation calls to mind a current coaching master.
Wooden as college basketball’s most successful coach amassed 10 NCAA titles and was rightfully called “the wizard of Westwood.”
Which current basketball coach has 10 NBA titles and is bearing down hard on No. 11?
His name is Phil Jackson and he coaches the Los Angeles Lakers. Should Jackson be called “the wizard of Staples Center”?
Jackson achieved his titles at Chicago and Los Angeles respectively, where he had two players who were among the select number of greatest athletes in history, formerly Michael Jordan of the Bulls and currently Kobe Bryant of the Lakers.
A superstar on a roster does not assure titles. A coach must have the finesse to correctly set the table and create an environment in which the star can flourish. With just the right preparation, this is the correct blending to achieve championships.
The aforementioned factors were evident in Game One of the NBA Finals at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant was never more focused. He intently wants another championship ring. Phil Jackson set the table in such a way that Bryant has an excellent chance to realize his goal.
One fact generates trepidation in the land of Celtic supporters.
What is Phil Jackson’s record after winning Game One of a playoff series? It stands at a perfect 48-0.
The Lakers came into Game One against a prideful defensive juggernaut led by three future Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. They are augmented by a superb table setter, a courageous and flashy point guard in Rajon Rondo.
An important phase of the Celtics’ game surrounds the juggling of three tough big men who appear alternately, thereby able if necessary to rack up more fouls in limited appearances.
They seek to dominate within the paint. They are Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, and Glen Davis.
The idea was to throw the Lakers off their flashy shooting game by intimidating at close range and forcing them to make longer shots at a distinct disadvantage regarding percentage capabilities.
This is where Jackson’s shrewd table setting bore fruit. The Lakers had Pau Gasol firmly in place and received needed additional muscle in Andrew Bynum and defensive stalwart Ron Artest, who did a superb job on Paul Pierce.
The idea was that the Lakers would position themselves under the basket and hold their ground, not to be intimidated or muscled into surrendering space.
The territorial imperative was Jackson’s order of the day.
When the crafty Doc Rivers made his halftime adjustments the Lakers were denied the number of successful layup opportunities they had in the first half.
The Lakers were then successful in taking advantage of good shot opportunities at and around the perimeter while the Celtics were compelled to hold ground in the paint area based on the Lakers’ first half attacking strengths on layups.
The Lakers also had a successful defensive plan that limited Rondo’s ability to drive to the hoop. His freedom was restricted by shot swatters Gasol and Bynum. Even when they did not achieve blocks Rondo was compelled to make adjustments that restricted his freedom.
Meanwhile, Bryant took advantage of shot opportunities, scoring 30 points.
In Game Two and throughout the remainder of the series, in order for Boston to have a chance at victory, the Celtic big men will need to seize the opportunity and enjoy more success at the paint, which will then enable Rondo to better function as the team’s quarterback.
Remember, the Celtics were out-rebounded in Game One, a result Doc Rivers and his team did not anticipate.