As we all wake up every day in search of greatness, the important question, more than the speeches about hard work, dedication and all the human effort necessary in achieving greatness is, are you searching in the right place? Many people over the course of history have failed at something and achieved everlasting greatness at another. There is a saying that goes “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. Finding your niche is the most important recipe for greatness and that has worked for Phil Jackson.
Hardly can one say two NBA Championships as a player is mediocre, but it wouldn’t have been greatness. NBA history is littered with players who won the coveted Championship more than once. What truly set Phil Jackson apart, and made him arguably the greatest coach in NBA history was he discovered his niche, as a coach. He went on to win multiple titles, becoming an icon and a legend to millions of fans across America. Learn more about Phil Jackson and his journey to greatness below.
Phil Jackson’s Bio
Phil Jackson grew up to become a coach who based his life on Eastern philosophies and Native American practices but when he was younger, he sat in the audience as a member of the Pentecostal church, Assemblies of God. It was all part of his young life as the son of Charles Jackson and Elisabeth Funk Jackson, who were ministers of the church.
Born to his parents on the 17th of September, 1945 in Deer Long, Montana, Phil Douglas Jackson along with his two brothers and half-sister were raised in a remote area of Montana. His parents took their religious beliefs seriously and raised Phil Jackson and his siblings in a way that deprived them of “earthly pleasures” such as dancing and watching television.
He saw his first movie when he was a senior in high school at Williston, North Dakota. As a talented basketball player, he helped his team to two state titles while in high school. His dedication to sports cut across athletics too where he ran track and also threw the discus. He was also a baseball player. His journey to the NBA began at the University of North Dakota where he finally had his first dance and helped his team to third and fourth place finishes in his two years as a collegiate player.
He did just enough to attract the attention of some NBA teams and he was drafted by New York Knicks in 1967. At the Knicks, he became a leading substitute as a result of his limited offensive attributes which he compensated for with intelligence and hard work on defense. He played for the Knicks from 1967 to 1978, winning the NBA title twice in 1970 and 1973. He spent the last two years of his playing career at the New Jersey, retiring in 1980.
As mentioned earlier, his playing days was nothing remarkable at an individual level. His greatness ensued as a coach where he set and built a house of excellence that will stand for the rest of time. Like almost everyone who went on to achieve greatness, Phil Jackson started coaching at the lower leagues in Puerto Rico and the United States. Before he became the most sought-after coach in the NBA, all his initial attempts at getting an NBA job failed and he never got an NBA position until 1987 when he was hired by Doug Collins as Chicago Bulls assistant coach. He became the head coach in 1989 and the rest became history.
He would go on to win six championships for Chicago Bulls, including coaching Michael Jordan and achieving the incredible 3-Peat.
After he left the Bulls in 1998, he joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999 and was there till 2004. Jackson immediately proved to everyone that his Chicago Bulls successes weren’t a fluke. He won the NBA Championship in his first season with the Lakers, and another in 2001 and 2002. At the end of his career with the Lakers in 2011, he had won 5 NBA Championships for the team.
His leave from the Lakers meant retirement for Phil Jackson. He did, however, return to basketball as an executive for the New York Knicks in 2014 until 2017 when he was fired from the team.
Having had one of the most exceptional careers a coach could have, Phil Jackson’s achievements are numerous. Here is a quick summary of some of his achievements.
He won 11 NBA Championships as a coach, two as a player. He is one of the 10 greatest NBA coaches of all time, an official list by the association in 1996. He coached the NBA All-Star Game four times. Won Coach of the Year once. Fastest coach to win 1000 games.
As one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, it isn’t a surprise that Phil Jackson is worth $70 million. Multiple decades at the summit of the sport has helped Phil Jackson to his massive wealth.
Phil Jackson was a marijuana user
Phil Jackson, who was known for his zen and eastern practices when he was a coach often used marijuana and LSD.
He is an author
Phil Jackson is certainly a man of extreme intelligence and he has documented some of his thoughts and experiences in multiple books over the years. He has written 8 books thus far.
He dated his boss’ daughter
Depending on whether your boss likes you or hates you, dating your boss’ daughter can either be a great thing or a terrible thing. For Phil, it was a great thing as he dated Laker’s owner’s daughter, Jeanie Buss. The two got engaged in 2013. They, however, never made it to the altar. They broke up in 2016.