Sorry I can't get on the Phil Jackson bandwagon this week while the Lakers celebrate their NBA championship. Commentators are calling him the greatest coach in history, and it's a decent argument, considering he has more titles than anyone.
It's just that winning titles with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant is like dunking off a trampoline.
I know what you're thinking. You have to be able to manage your superstars.
Yes, and you have to steer a Lexus.
It's just that most 16-year-olds can do it.
Jackson entered a class of one on Sunday night, when the Lakers beat Orlando for the NBA crown. That makes it 10 championships, one more than former Boston coach Red Auerbach and twice as many as Pat Riley. Jackson won his first six titles with Jordan/Pippen, three with O'Neal/Bryant and now one with Bryant and fellow All-Star Pau Gasol.
I know all about Jackson's Zen, and how he's a master of psychology. It takes a pretty crafty guy to call Sacramento a cowtown just to get the locals riled up — especially when you're from Deer Lodge, Mont., yourself. And you have to be an absolute savant to show pictures of then-Kings coach Rick Adelman juxtaposed with pictures of Hitler in a team motivational video. Brilliant!
Calling Mormonism a "cult" and John Stockton a dirty player are a couple of other nice psychological moves, too. How do I know? He won both those series.
I'm guessing he's smarter than da Vinci.
I'm also guessing he could have rolled the ball out and gone golfing and the results would have been the same all 10 of those championship years.
Most coaches will tell you it's all about the players in the professional game. Although I don't think that's entirely true, it's hard to figure how anyone could screw it up with the players Jackson has had. He probably should have won one or two more titles along the way.
Tell me any players that have been better than O'Neal, Bryant and Jordan.<
Jackson didn't just have good personnel, or even All-Stars. He had the best. It's like having Colonel Sanders' secret recipe and then taking credit for your tasty chicken.
How can you miss?
The No. 2 all-time title winner, Auerbach, coached Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and John Havlicek — all great players. But unlike Jackson's players, Auerbach's weren't the most athletic in the league. He built his dynasty on teamwork and execution. Jackson had some of that, too, but he also had rare athleticism and/or overpowering size to go with it.
For my money, the best coach next to Auerbach was Chuck Daly. The late Pistons' coach took his teams to the NBA Finals in 1988-90, winning the last two. But his weren't sensationally talented teams. He coached them into their Bad Boys persona and they took care of the rest. Those Pistons teams had one superstar, Isiah Thomas, and some nice complementary players such as Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Vinnie Johnson and Joe Dumars. Yet coaching Thomas couldn't have been easy. The man has proven since his playing days that he is an Isiah-first kind of guy. If anyone not named Rodman could have sabotaged that team, it would have been Thomas.
Daly avoided that.
This year's Lakers had their two stars, but they also had versatile players such as Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza, plus Derek Fisher, whose role is apparently to hit game-winning 3-pointers. Meanwhile, they didn't even have to face the best team in the East. Boston wilted after Kevin Garnett was hurt and Cleveland seized up in the Eastern finals against Orlando.
Jackson might have kept his team organized, but he didn't ignite it. Bryant did. The same Bryant that Jackson once termed nearly uncoachable.
Jordan ran the Bulls, Bryant is running the Lakers. Give Jackson the Jazz, and he'd wind up where the Jazz are — a first-round playoff loser. Give Jerry Sloan or Rick Adelman the players Jackson has had, and they'd win titles, too.
In fact, give the Lakers to me.
Even I could tell them what time to show up then get out of their way.