Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in NBA history after leading his teams to a record 11 championships.


Born on September 17, 1945, in Deer Lodge, Montana, Phil Jackson joined the NBA in 1967 and won two championships as a player with the New York Knicks. He then earned renown as one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, winning six titles with the Chicago Bulls and another five with the Los Angeles Lakers before retiring in 2011. In 2014, Jackson returned to the NBA as president of the Knicks.

Early Years and Career

Basketball player, coach and executive. Born Philip Douglas Jackson on September 17, 1945, in Deer Lodge, Montana. Widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association, Phil Jackson led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles from 1989 to 1998, and won another five titles with the Los Angeles Lakers the following decade.

The son of Assemblies of God ministers, Phil Jackson and his siblings grew up without movies, dancing or television. He played basketball, football and baseball in high school and was recruited to North Dakota to play basketball after graduation. While there, he helped his team win third- and fourth-place finishes in the NCAA Division II championships.

In 1967, Phil Jackson was drafted in the second round by the New York Knicks, where he played as a favored substitute for two NBA championship-winning teams. Though he was an intelligent, hard-working athlete, Jackson was never a star player. He retired from play in 1980.

Coaching Success

Phil Jackson began his coaching career as an assistant with the NBA's New Jersey Nets, before serving as head coach of the Continental Basketball Association's Albany Patroons in the mid-1980s. He rejoined the NBA as an assistant with the Chicago Bulls in 1987, and got his big break when he was promoted to head coach in 1989.

During his time with the Bulls, Jackson became known for his modernization of Tex Winter's triangle offense, as well as his holistic approach to coaching based on Eastern philosophy and Native American spiritual practices. His impressive leadership, combined with the talents of such star players as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, earned the Bulls six championships in a pair of "three-peats" (1991-93, 1996-98). The team made it to the playoffs every year Jackson served as coach.

Despite the success, tension grew between Phil Jackson and Bulls general manager Jerry Krause. After winning the title in 1998, Jackson took a year off, and then joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999. He had immediate success with the team, winning three consecutive titles from 2000 to 2002. Tension between star players Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal frequently made headlines, and Jackson himself often clashed with Bryant, who regularly disregarded the coach's set offense. In 2004, Jackson left the team.

After a disappointing 2004-05 season for the Lakers, Phil Jackson was rehired as head coach. With O'Neal no longer around, the "Zen Master" reshaped the team around Bryant and rediscovered success. He was honored with induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Further honors came when Jackson guided the Lakers to the championship at the end of the 2008-09 season; it was his 10th NBA title as a head coach, breaking the record he shared with coaching legend Red Auerbach. The following year, the Lakers successfully defended their title, giving Jackson yet another ring for his collection.

There was to be no three-peat this time around, as the Lakers lost in the second round of the 2011 NBA playoffs. Afterward, Jackson announced he was retiring. In addition to his championships, he left with the record for highest career winning percentage as a coach (.704), and ranked fifth at the time with 1,155 total wins.

Personal and Return to New York

In 2013, Jackson revealed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer during his final season with the Lakers, and had undergone surgery following the 2011 playoffs. Also in 2013, Jackson got engaged to Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss.

In March 2014, it was announced that Jackson was returning to the Big Apple with a five-year deal to serve as president of the New York Knicks.  

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