As soon as the Lakers were swept away by the Dallas Mavericks Sunday afternoon, a lot of folks in the sports media (especially Michael Wilbon and Mike Tirico) waxed poetic over how Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson is the greatest coach not only in the NBA, but in all of sports.
I almost puked the remainder of the Mother’s Day brunch I had with my wife.
People in all walks of life seem to be prisoners of the moment. They fail to remember and appreciate history while fawning over the present.
Jackson is not the first multi-winning championship coach in all of sports.
In fact, Jackson is the greatest FRONT-RUNNING coach in sports history. I mean, in Chicago dude had the opportunity to coach Michael Jordan in his prime and Scottie Pippen entering his, winning the first three championships. That same Chicago team also had Horace Grant doing the dirty work and John Paxson nailing threes. Jackson won his last three rings with the Bulls with Dennis Rodman doing the dirty work and Steve Kerr nailing threes – with Jordan and Pippen.
Then Jackson takes his act to L.A. and wins three more championships with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in their primes, and two more with Bryant and Pau Gasol in his prime. I’m sorry but color me unimpressed.
To me, being a great coach means building and maintaining a winning program instead of walking into a great situation with parts already present. Jackson was never a builder as much as he was a REFINER.
Here are the coaches I would put ahead of Jackson on my list of greatest coaches in all of sports:
- Vince Lombardi
- Chuck Noll
- Red Auerbach
- John Wooden
- Mike Krzyzewski
- Bob Knight
- Jim Calhoun
- George Halas
All of those coaches have won at least three championships on any level while building and maintaining winning programs.
By the way, me being a Knicks fan does not have anything to do with my opinion on Jackson. It’s the same reason Yankees manager Joe Torre (one of my favorite managers) is not on this list.
Torre, like Jackson, was a refiner instead of a builder. He walked into a great situation with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettite in their primes. Buck Showalter built it, and Torre refined the product.
Jackson is a great coach – after all, he did win 11 championships. Let’s not confuse a great coach with being a great front-runner.