Jackson, Philip Douglas

▪ 1997

      Although the media delighted in calling attention to his fascination with Eastern philosophy and Native American culture, Phil Jackson, head coach of the National Basketball Association's (NBA's) Chicago Bulls, stressed the basics: teamwork and defense. Skillfully managing the talents and egos of a squad that included the great Michael Jordan, all-star Scottie Pippen, former European standout Toni Kukoc, and the irrepressible Dennis Rodman (q.v.), Jackson earned NBA Coach of the Year honours in 1996 as his team won a league-record 72 games during the regular season and its fourth NBA title in six years.

      Jackson was born in Deer Lodge, Mont., on Sept. 17, 1945. His father was a Pentecostal minister, his mother an evangelist. While television, rock and roll, and other such pursuits of youth were prohibited in the Jackson home, Phil did engage in sports and earned a basketball scholarship at the University of North Dakota. Drafted by the New York Knicks in 1967, he played 13 seasons in the NBA, 11 of them with New York, which won championships in 1970 and 1973. A low-scoring forward, he relished his role as a defender and rebounder. Jackson's book Maverick (1975) raised eyebrows with candid descriptions of his drug experimentation and sexual promiscuity. His reputation initially alienated him from the NBA's establishment. Eventually, Jackson's unconventional philosophy, which he articulated to the public in his second book, Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior (1995), came to be a celebrated aspect of his approach to coaching.

      Jackson's coaching career began when he was traded to the New Jersey Nets in 1978 and became a player-assistant coach. His playing career ended in 1980. He took a job coaching the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association in 1982 and won the CBA title in 1984. Jackson landed a job as an assistant coach with the Bulls in 1987 and then gained the head coaching position in 1989. The Bulls had the league's best player in Jordan but had never won a championship. Jackson implemented a new scheme, which called for Jordan's teammates to play a larger role in handling the ball; it made Jordan much more potent, as opponents were forced to defend all five Bulls players. Championships followed in 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1996. Jackson became the ninth man to win titles as both a player and a coach, and he reached 200 victories faster than any other coach in NBA history. After the 1995-96 season he held a .721 winning percentage in the regular season and an all-time-high .723 winning percentage in the play-offs. (ANTHONY G. CRAINE)

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Universalium. 2010.

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