Would Phil Jackson’s 12th Title Establish Him as NBA’s Greatest Coach Ever?

Is Phil Jackson the greatest coach in NBA history or just the lucky benefactor of two highly favorable situations where he was allowed to win numerous titles without having to mold talent like other coaches?

It's the type of question that has divided not only sports fans, but also NBA sportswriters. Michael Wilbon argues that while he has usually had great players, "probably more importantly—they've had him."

Wilbon adds that Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal "never won squat without Jackson at the helm" and that even usually intelligent basketball experts continue to question his place among the leagues greatest coaches.

Sports talk radio announcer Christopher Russo sees Jackson's career differently.

"He had Michael Jordan for his first six titles and then Shaq and Kobe for [five] more," Russo said. "He wins because he has talented teams to start with. He has never built a team from scratch the way a Larry Brown has or the way Red Auerbach did. He's a good coach, but until I see him take a team that was initially terrible and turn it into a champion, I will question his place among the league's greatest coaches."

I will acknowledge that, for many years, I was sided with Russo as a Phil Jackson detractor, and this was after living in Chicago during the the Michael Jordan era of the1990s.

"I could coach the Bulls to a title if I had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman," I said. "Phil has always had ready-made champs to work with. All he had to do was assure that the team cohered and presto, he gets another ring. He has the easiest job in the world."

I must admit, though, that my impression of Phil Jackson has changed dramatically in the last few years.

First, I considered his record as a coach. His regular season record currently stands at 1,098–460, an astounding 70 percent winning percentage. I considered the fact that his t...

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