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Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson
Jackson as the Knicks President of Operations.
Personal information
Born September 17, 1945 (1945-09-17) (age 78)
Deer Lodge, Montana
Nationality Flag of the United States American
Physical stats
Listed height: 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)
Listed weight: 220 lbs (100 kg)
Career information
High school Williston
(Williston, North Dakota)
College North Dakota (1964–1967)
NBA Draft 1967 / Round: 2 / Pick: 17th
Selected by the New York Knicks
Playing career 1967–1980 (13 years)
Position Power Forward
League NBA
Jersey no. 18, 17
Coaching career 1978–2011 (33 years)
Career history

As player:

19671978 New York Knicks
19781980 New Jersey Nets

As coach:

19781981 New Jersey Nets (assistant)
1982–1987 Albany Patroons
1984 Piratas de Quebradillas
1984–1986 Gallitos de Isabela
1987 Piratas de Quebradillas
19871989 Chicago Bulls (assistant)
19891998 Chicago Bulls
Los Angeles Lakers

As executive:

20142017 New York Knicks
(President of Basketball Operations)
Career highlights and awards

As player:

  • 2× NBA champion (1970, 1973)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (1968)
  • 2× First-team Division II All-American (1966, 1967)
  • 2× NCC Player of the Year (1966, 1967)
  • 3× First-team All-NCC (1965–1967)

As coach: profile profile

Philip Douglas Jackson (born September 17, 1945) is an American former professional basketball player, coach, and executive in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

A power forward, Jackson played 12 seasons in the NBA, winning NBA championships with the New York Knicks in 1970 and 1973. Jackson was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1998, leading them to six NBA championships and two three-peats. He then coached the Los Angeles Lakers from 1999 to 2004 and again from 2005 to 2011; the team won five league titles under his leadership, with a three-peat from 2000 to 2002 and back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. Jackson's 11 NBA titles as a coach surpassed the previous record of nine set by Red Auerbach. He also holds the NBA record for the most combined championships, winning a total of 13 as a player and a coach.

Jackson is known for his use of Tex Winter's triangle offense as well as a holistic approach to coaching that was influenced by Eastern philosophy, garnering him the nickname "Zen Master". Jackson cited Robert Pirsig's book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as one of the major guiding forces in his life. He also applied Native American spiritual practices, as documented in his book Sacred Hoops. He is the author of several candid books about his teams and his basketball strategies. In 2007, Jackson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1996, as part of celebrations for the National Basketball Association's 50th anniversary, Jackson was named one of the 10 greatest coaches in league history.

Jackson retired from coaching in 2011 and joined the Knicks as an executive in March 2014. He was dismissed as the Knicks' team president on June 28, 2017.

Early years[]

Jackson was born in Deer Lodge, Montana on September 17, 1945. Both of Jackson's parents, Charles and Elisabeth[1] Jackson, were Assemblies of God ministers. In the churches that they served, his father generally preached on Sunday mornings and his mother on Sunday evenings. Eventually, his father would become a ministerial supervisor.[1] Phil, his two brothers, and his half-sister grew up in an extremely austere environment, in which no movies, dancing, or television (once there was a TV station where they lived) were allowed. He did not see his first movie until he was a senior in high school, and went to a dance for the first time in college.[2]

Phil Jackson attended a high school in Williston, North Dakota where he played varsity basketball and led the team to two state titles. He also played football, was a pitcher in baseball, and threw the discus.[3] His older brother Chuck speculated years later that the three Jackson sons, including Phil, threw themselves passionately into athletics because it was the only time that they were allowed to do what other children were doing.[4] Phil attracted the attention of several baseball scouts. Their notes found their way to future NBA coach Bill Fitch, who had previously coached baseball, and had been doing some scouting for the Atlanta Braves. Fitch took over as head basketball coach at The University of North Dakota in the spring of 1962, during Jackson's junior year of high school.[3]

Fitch successfully recruited him to UND, after dinner and a movie over a glass of wine,[5] where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity.[6] Jackson did well there, helping the Fighting Sioux to third- and fourth-place finishes in the NCAA Division II tournament in his sophomore and junior years (1965 and 1966). Both years, they would be beaten by Southern Illinois.[7] This was the era in which Jackson's future Knicks teammate Walt Frazier was the Salukis' biggest star, but the two only faced off in 1965, as Frazier was academically ineligible in 1966. In college, Phil majored in Religion, Philosophy, and Psychology.

In Williston, North Dakota, where Jackson attended high school, a sports complex is named after him.

NBA playing career[]

In 1967, Jackson was drafted in the second round by the New York Knicks. While he was a good all-around athlete, with unusually long arms, he was very limited offensively.[8] He compensated for his offensive limitations with sheer intelligence and hard work, especially on defense,[9] and eventually established himself as a fan favorite and one of the NBA's leading substitutes. He was a top reserve on the Knicks team that won the NBA title in 1973 (Jackson missed being part of New York's 1970 championship season due to spinal fusion surgery, however, he authored a book entitled "Take It All" which was a photo diary of the Knicks' 1970 Championship run). Soon after the second title, several key starters of the championship teams retired, eventually forcing Jackson into the starting lineup.[9] He lived in Leonia, New Jersey. After going across the Hudson to the New Jersey Nets in 1978 and playing there for two seasons, he retired from play in 1980.

In the 1974-75 NBA season, the Knicks' Phil Jackson and the Milwaukee Bucks' Bob Dandridge shared the lead for total personal fouls, with 330 each.[10]


In the following years, he mainly coached in lower-level professional leagues, notably the Continental Basketball Association and the Piratas de Quebradillas of Puerto Rico's National Superior Basketball (BSN). While in the CBA, he won his first coaching championship, leading the Albany Patroons to their first CBA title. He regularly sought an NBA job, but was invariably turned down; during his playing years, he had acquired a reputation for being sympathetic to the counterculture, which may have scared off potential NBA employers. Most notably, while still playing for the Knicks in 1975, he had detailed his experimentation with LSD in an early autobiography, Maverick.[11]

Chicago Bulls (1988–1998)[]

Jackson was hired as assistant coach for the Bulls in 1987, and promoted to head coach in 1989 where he coached until 1998. It was at this time that he met Tex Winter and became a devotee of Winter's triangle offense.[12][13] Over 9 seasons, Jackson coached the Bulls to 6 championships in impressive fashion, twice winning three straight championships over separate three year periods. The "three-peat" was the first since the Boston Celtics won eight titles in a row from 1959 through 1966.

Jackson and the Bulls made the playoffs every year, and failed to win the title only three times. Jackson lost in his first season in 1990. Michael Jordan's first retirement after the 1993 season marked the end of the first "three-peat," and although Jordan returned just before the 1995 playoffs, it was not enough to prevent a playoff exit to the rising Orlando Magic. During the first "three-peat," the Bulls won the NBA title in 1992 as sports championship fever hit Chicago, as the Blackhawks were in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals at the same time. Jackson would later recount that the sports championship fever that New York experienced two years later when both the Knicks and the Rangers were in their respective league's finals in the same year was no stranger to Rangers Coach Mike Keenan[14], as he was coach of the Blackhawks in 1992.

The chemistry developed between Jackson and the players was one of the best in NBA history. The respect shared between the players and the coach was the key factor in being able to build up a dynasty. While Jordan was already long considered the most dominant player, Jackson was also credited as one of the most important elements in the Bulls' championships and his work earned him league-wide recognition.

Regardless of the success Jackson shared with his team, the tension between Jackson and Bulls general manager Jerry Krause grew. Some believed that Krause felt under-recognized for his work in building the Bulls up into a championship team, being jealous of the attention received by Jordan and Jackson. In particular, Krause believed that Jackson was indebted to him because Jackson received his first NBA coaching job from Krause. Some examples of the tension include:

  • During the summer of 1997, Krause's step-daughter got married. All of the Bulls assistant coaches and their wives were invited to the wedding, as was Tim Floyd, then the head coach at Iowa State, whom Krause was openly courting as Jackson's successor (and who would eventually succeed Jackson). Jackson and his wife at the time, June, were not even told of the wedding, much less invited, only finding out about the event when the wife of assistant Bill Cartwright asked June what she would be wearing to the reception.[15]
  • After contentious negotiations between Jackson and the Bulls in that same period, Jackson was signed for the 1997-98 season only. Krause announced the signing in what Chicago media widely considered to be a mean-spirited manner, emphasizing that Jackson would not be rehired even if the Bulls won the 1997-98 title. That triggered an argument between Jackson and Krause in which Jackson essentially told Krause that he seemed to be rooting for the other side and not the Bulls. At that point, Krause told Jackson, "I don't care if it's 82-and-0 this year, you're fucking gone."[16]
  • Krause publicly portrayed Jackson as a two-faced character who had very little regard for his assistant coaches, a perception that certain Krause associates in the Bulls organization had sought to spread about Jackson. At the height of the hard feelings in the spring of 1998, one of Krause's scouts went to press row in Chicago's United Center to explain to a reporter the insidious nature of Jackson's ego. (excerpt from the Phil Jackson biography Mindgames)

After the Bulls' final title of the Jordan era in 1998, Jackson left the team vowing never to coach again. However, after taking a year off, he decided to give it another chance with the Los Angeles Lakers from 1999 to 2004 and again from 2005 to 2011.

Los Angeles Lakers (1999–2004, 2005–2011)[]

Jackson took over a talented, but troubled Lakers team and immediately produced results. In his first year in L.A., the Lakers went 67–15 during the regular season to clinch the best record in the league. Reaching the conference finals, they dispatched the Portland Trail Blazers in a tough seven-game series, and then won the 2000 NBA championship by beating the Indiana Pacers in six games.

Titles in 2001 and 2002 followed, against the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, adding up to a three-peat as a coach. The main serious challenge the Lakers faced was from their conference rival, the Sacramento Kings, who was the top seed in the West in the 2001–02 season. The two teams met each other in the Western Conference Finals, where amidst controversial officiating, the Lakers defeated the Kings in seven games en route to their third consecutive NBA championship.

In the 2002–03 season, the Lakers seeked to become the first team since the 1960s Boston Celtics to win a fourth consecutive NBA championship. However, injuries, weak bench play, and full-blown public tension between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal slowed the team down, and they were beaten in the second round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in six games, ending the Lakers' bid for a fourth consecutive NBA championship.

Afterwards, Jackson clashed frequently with Bryant. While remarkably efficient in Jackson's "triangle offense", Bryant had a personal distaste for Jackson's brand of basketball and subsequently called it "boring." In games, Bryant would often disregard the set offense completely to experiment with his own one-on-one moves, incensing the normally calm Jackson. Bryant managed to test Jackson's patience enough that the "Zen Master" even demanded that Bryant be traded, although Laker management rejected the request.

Prior to the 2003–04 season, the Lakers signed NBA star veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who had been franchise players for the Utah Jazz and the Seattle SuperSonics, respectively, leading to predictions by some that the team would finish with the best record in NBA history. But from the first day of training camp, the Lakers were beset by distractions. Bryant's rape trial, continued public sniping between O'Neal and Bryant, and repeated disputes between Jackson and Bryant all affected the team during the season. Despite these distractions, the Lakers beat the defending champion San Antonio Spurs en route to advancing to the NBA Finals and were heavy favorites to regain the title. However, they were stunned by the Detroit Pistons, whose strong defense dominated the Lakers, as they won the series in five games, winning their 3rd NBA championship. This marked the first time in ten attempts as head coach that Jackson had lost in the NBA Finals.

On June 18, 2004, three days after Jackson had suffered his first-ever loss in an NBA Finals series, the Lakers announced that Jackson would leave his position as Lakers coach. Many fans attributed Jackson's departure directly to the wishes of Bryant, as Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss reportedly sided with Bryant. Jackson, Bryant and Buss all denied that Bryant had made any explicit demand regarding Jackson. However, O'Neal, upon hearing General Manager Mitch Kupchak's announcement of the team's willingness to trade O'Neal and its intention to keep Bryant, indicated that he felt the franchise was indeed pandering to Bryant's wishes with the departure of Jackson. O'Neal's trade to the Miami Heat was the end of the "Trifecta" that had led the Lakers to three championship titles.

That fall, Jackson released The Last Season, a book which describes his point of view of the tensions that surrounded the 2003–04 Lakers team. The book was pointedly critical of Kobe Bryant; at one point, Jackson called Bryant "uncoachable."

Without Jackson and O'Neal the Lakers were forced to become a faster paced team on the court. Though they achieved some success in the first half of the season, injuries to several players including stars Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom forced the team out of contention, going 34–48 in 2004–05 and missing the playoffs for the first time in eleven years. Jackson's successor as coach, Rudy Tomjanovich, resigned midway through the season, citing health issues, immediately leading to speculation that the Lakers might bring Jackson back.

On June 15, 2005, the Lakers rehired Phil Jackson. Jackson took a Laker squad that was mediocre, aside from superstar Kobe Bryant, and led them to a seventh-seed playoff berth. Once again promoting the notion of selfless team play embodied by the triangle offense, the team achieved substantial results, especially in the last month of the season. Jackson also worked seamlessly with Bryant, who had earlier shown his willingness to bring back Jackson to the bench. Bryant's regular-season performance won him the league scoring title and made him a finalist in MVP voting. However, the Lakers faced a tough 2006 first-round matchup against the second-seeded Phoenix Suns, who were led by eventual MVP winner Steve Nash. It was the first time that Jackson's team had failed to reach the second round of the playoffs. The Lakers jumped out to a 3–1 lead following a dramatic last second shot by Bryant in overtime to win game four, but the Suns recovered to win the last three and take the series. Many consider that seven game Lakers-Suns contest to be among the greatest first-round series in NBA history.

On January 7, 2007, Jackson won his 900th game, currently placing him 9th on the all-time win list for NBA coaches. With this win, Jackson became the fastest to reach 900 career wins, doing so in only 1,264 games and beating Pat Riley's previous record of 900 in 1,278 games.

On December 12, 2007, after announcing he would return to his position as coach just a few days prior, Phil Jackson inked a 2-year contract extension to continue his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers through the end of the 2009–10 season.[1]

During the 2007–08 season, the Lakers were able to obtain Pau Gasol in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. With another star to pair with Bryant, he coached the Lakers to an appearance in the 2008 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. Boston won the series in six games, where in Game 6, they handed the Lakers and Jackson their worst playoff loss ever, a 39-point defeat. It marked the 2nd time in eleven appearances that Jackson lost an NBA Finals, and the ninth time the Lakers were defeated by the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

On Christmas Day 2008, Jackson became the 6th coach to win 1000 games, with the Lakers defeating the Celtics in their first match-up of the 2008-09 season after losing to them in the 2008 NBA Finals. He was the fastest to win 1000 games surpassing Pat Riley who had taken 11 more games than Jackson.

Jackson again coached the Lakers to the NBA Finals in 2009, defeating the Utah JazzHouston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets in the process. In the Finals, the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic 4–1, clinching the franchise's 15th NBA championship and Jackson's 10th NBA championship as head coach, surpassing the record for most championships won by a head coach previously held by him and Red Auerbach.

On February 3, 2010, Jackson recorded his 534th win as Lakers head coach, surpassing Pat Riley to become the most successful coach in franchise history. The Lakers would go on to a fifth consecutive playoff berth in 2010. They defeated the Oklahoma City ThunderUtah Jazz, and Phoenix Suns in the playoffs before defeating the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals, earning the franchise's 16th NBA championship, as well as Jackson his 11th NBA championship as head coach and fifth overall with the Lakers.

On July 1, 2010, Jackson, after giving it tremendous thought and consulting with his doctors over health concerns, announced that he would return to coach the Lakers for the 2010–11 season. On August 2, 2010, Jackson signed a new contract with the Lakers to return for what he mentioned was "his last stand", meaning the 2010–11 season would be his last. In January 2011, he reiterated that it would be his final season, explaining that in the past there was the possibility that maybe he would reconsider. "This year, there's no maybe", said Jackson. He retired after the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs in the conference semifinals by that season's eventual NBA champions, the Dallas Mavericks, meaning that he would not get a fourth three-peat (after previously achieving that feat in 1993, 1998, and 2002). In his final news conference that season, he noted that he did not have much of a relationship with Jerry or Jim Buss, and said, "When I leave here, I don't anticipate Lakers management will call me up and ask my advice."

After the Lakers fired Jackson's successor, Mike Brown, early in the 2012–13 season, they first approached Jackson to replace Brown. Jackson requested two days to consider the opening. He believed the Lakers would wait for his response, but the Lakers thought it was understood they would continue their search. The next day, the team talked with Mike D'Antoni and hired him in a unanimous decision by the front office. They felt D'Antoni's fast-paced style of play made him a "great fit" for the team, more suitable than Jackson's structured triangle offense. Jerry Buss' preference has always been for the Lakers to have a wide-open offense. In the two games leading up to D'Antoni's signing, Lakers fans at Staples Center had chanted "We Want Phil!"

Executive career[]

In 2014, Jackson was in discussions for months with the New York Knicks regarding an executive position with the team. On March 18, he was introduced as the president of the Knicks after signing a five-year, $60 million contract.

On April 21, 2014, over one week after the conclusion of the season, Mike Woodson and his entire staff were fired by Jackson. The Knicks finished the season with a 37–45 record and finished 9th in the Eastern Conference standings.

On June 9, 2014, the Knicks hired Derek Fisher as the head coach. Fisher played under Phil Jackson as a Laker and won five championships together.

On June 25, 2014, the Knicks traded guard Raymond Felton along with former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks. In return the Knicks received Shane LarkinJosé CalderónSamuel Dalembert, and Wayne Ellington along with two picks for the following day's draft. The trade was the first one that he executed as a front office executive. On June 26, as part of the 2014 NBA draft, the Knicks selected Cleanthony Early as the 34th overall pick and Thanasis Antetokounmpo as the 51st overall pick, using the draft picks received in the trade from the Mavericks. The Knicks also acquired Louis Labeyrie, an additional second-round draft pick, after he was traded by the Pacers.

On January 7, 2015, the Knicks set a franchise record with 13 straight losses. The Knicks fell 101–91 to the Washington Wizards, giving New York its longest losing streak in the franchise's 69-year history. This record was extended to 16 straight losses after the NBA Global Games loss against the Milwaukee Bucks in London. They ended the season with a record of 17–65, which is the worst record in franchise history.

On June 25, 2015, The Knicks drafted Latvian Kristaps Porziņģis with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft; he signed his rookie-scale contract with the Knicks on July 30, 2015. On that same night, the Knicks traded Tim Hardaway Jr. for the 19th pick in the draft, which would become Jerian Grant. Porziņģis was an NBA All-Rookie First Team selection for the 2016 season.

In the 2017 NBA Draft, Jackson's last NBA Draft with the Knicks, he selected French point guard Frank Ntilikina. In the second round, Jackson selected Damyean Dotson and Ognjen Jaramaz.

On June 28, 2017, the Knicks officially announced a mutual decision to part ways with Jackson. The speculated reasoning for the parting of ways was Jackson's attempted buying-out of Carmelo Anthony and his very public strife with Porziņģis. Jackson's position would be replaced by his former subordinate Steve Mills.

The Zen Master of the Triangle offense[]

Jackson is known for his use of Tex Winter's triangle offense as well as a holistic approach to coaching that is influenced by Eastern philosophy, earning him the nickname "Zen Master". (Jackson cites Robert Pirsig's book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as one of the major guiding forces in his life. His fond admiration for the book is the source of his nickname "Zen Master.") He also applies Native American spiritual practices as documented in his book "Sacred Hoops."[17] He is the author of several candid books about his teams and his basketball strategies. Jackson is also a recipient of the state of North Dakota's Roughrider Award. Jackson leads the 2007 class of the Basketball Hall of Fame.[18] Jackson regularly attempts to alter his appearance so the media cannot use old photos of him for recent news, and, true to his word, as of September 2008, he was no longer sporting his illustrious, white mustache, which saw 9 NBA titles.[19]

Motivational techniques[]

Along with being called the "Zen Master", Jackson is known as the master of mind games. In the Laker film room before the 2000 playoffs, Jackson displayed images of Edward Norton's character from the movie American History X, who has a bald head and a tattoo of a swastika, alternating with photos with Sacramento's white, shaved-headed and tattooed point guard, Jason Williams. Jackson then displayed pictures of Adolf Hitler alternately appearing with Sacramento coach Rick Adelman. When Rick Adelman learned of this, he openly questioned Jackson's motivational techniques saying Jackson had "crossed the line".[20] Nevertheless, the Lakers went on to win the series and the championship.

In addition, in the 2001 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Jackson had Tyronn Lue, a player on the Lakers team who was comparable in size and height to Sixers star Allen Iverson, wear a sock on his arm during Lakers practice to simulate Iverson's use of a compression arm sleeve as part of his regular gametime attire. Philadelphia media considered this to be a mind game tactic of Jackson's, but the main idea was to simulate what a game against Iverson is like, right down to the tattoos and cornrows (which Lue also had).[21]

Coaching record[]

Jackson has had a winning record every year as a head coach, and currently has the highest winning percentage of any Hall of Fame coach, and the highest of any NBA coach coaching 500 games or more. Along with his NBA-record 11 championships, he is the only coach to win at least 10 championships in any of North America's major professional sports.

At the end of the 2010 season he had the fifth most wins of any NBA coach, and was one of only six to have over 1,000 wins. Of those six, he was the only one who had not coached over 1,900 games, and the only one not included in the top 10 total games coached.

Books by Phil Jackson[]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Template:Cite book
  2. Halberstam, Playing for Keeps, pp. 252-53.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Halberstam, Playing for Keeps, p. 51.
  4. Halberstam, Playing for Keeps, p. 254.
  5. Halberstam, Playing for Keeps, pp. 201-207.
  6. Facts and History, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
  7. Halberstam, Playing for Keeps, p. 53.
  8. Halberstam, Playing for Keeps, p. 190.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Halberstam, Playing for Keeps, p. 191.
  10. 1974-75 NBA Player Register,
  11. Halberstam, Playing for Keeps, p. 192.
  12. ABC News (49): Former K-State basketball star dies at 72; February 22, 2007. accessed on October 2, 2007.
  13. Canada Basketball: Candidates for the 2007 Class of the FIBA Hall of Fame announced; May 25, 2007 accessed on October 2, 2007.
  14. "Spring of '94," MSG Network
  15. Halberstam, Playing for Keeps, p. 249.
  16. Halberstam, Playing for Keeps, p. 41. The "82" refers to the number of regular-season games each NBA team plays.
  17. Online NewsHour: Court Zen- June 16, 2000
  18. RealGM: Wiretap Archives: Jackson And Williams Lead HOF Class
  20. Sports: Veterans keeping Pacers in contention
  21. NBA Finals 2001

External links[]

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