RICHMOND- Phil Jackson has 11 NBA Championship rings and is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NBA History.
However, last night’s conclusion of the The Last Dance documentary portrayed the hall of famer in a light that was seen recently in modern times when Jackson was the President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks.
Last night’s video only added Phil to the list of reasons why the 1998 championship season was considered as “The Last Dance”. Arrogant, Thinking of himself, those words come to mind.
But in the early 90’s, those words weren’t applied to Phil, but rather to Bulls general manager Jerry Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
Jackson was considered by many as “The Zen Master”. Is it possible to say that he was more of “The Spin Master”? In fact, do you really believe Phil Jackson was as good of a coach for 11 rings, or was it mostly due to the stars on his rosters?
The Bulls can attest to the stars, having been led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Jackson merely seemed to convince players with a prophetic voice. A legitimate argument can be made that Jordan walked away in 1998 believing that Jackson would be leaving with him.
It’s fair to blame Krause and Reinsdorf for their egos getting in the way and not caring about their public perception. They deserve it, yet they won. Winning in spite of yourself? An achievement and a disappointment mixed together.
Do not forget to add Phil to the mix, and the modern day fan knows all about the arrogance, look no further than ESPN for a rant on Jackson and his modern day tenures and behavior.
What stuns many people is that despite Krause saying that Jackson “could go 82-0 and still not return”, Reinsdorf overruled the decision and asked Jackson to return on a one year deal.
The pride that resided in Jackson and a sly nature engulfed him enough to say no and take a sabbatical before returning to coach the Lakers. In the case of Jordan, he lost three years of basketball before electing to come back with the Washington Wizards and former coach Doug Collins.
Michael made it known that he wanted a coach with NBA experience instead of Krause’s choice of former Iowa State coach Tim Floyd as the replacement. But to no avail and as a result, he left the game.
His teammates, whom Krause said were too old and could not play any longer, went on to play a few more years including Pippen, who was still a serviceable player after leaving the windy city.
Steve Kerr went on to win titles in San Antonio before ultimately becoming a head coach in Golden State and leading a dynasty of his own. Ron Harper would follow Jackson to LA and win more rings on his own name.
The biggest what if in all of this is wondering what could have been, in addition to how the Bulls were denied a chance to defend their title because of an organizational structure that endured a level of pettiness towards its own players.
In a Sports Illustrated article, Bulls announcer Tom Dore recalled a conversation he had with Jordan, stating how Jordan was dissapointed about not getting another shot.
Jackson did not return, so Jordan didn’t either. Neither did Pippen, Rodman, Kerr, Harper and a host of others from the Bulls’ dynasty.
In 1998-99, Floyd’s first year as an NBA head coach, the three-time defending champions won just 13 games. Their longest winning streak in the strike shortened 50-game season ran just two victories.
Jackson was honored during the year but was booed heavily when thanking Krause and Reinsdorf. As for the players themselves, it was clear that the 1999 season was more painful than it was short.
“That’s the part that hurts me,” reserve player Randy Brown says. “That the greatest team ever was not given a chance to be beaten.”
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. We all know about Krause and Reinsdorf, but now the list adds another to complete a triplet of egos. It’s Phil Jackson. It’s official, he may be a great coach, but he endured a heavy dose of luckiness.
Chicago’s dynasty is one of the greatest in NBA history, but it was destroyed from the inside, but it truly was a remarkable ride, and the Windy City would love nothing more than a championship in this era.
But it comes down to ownership and egos being in controlled. Something that Windy City athletics never takes into consideration across all their sports.
Phil got his rings, Reinsdorf and Krause got their money, and the players got their legend status. But was it truly worth it considering how it imploded from within? We’ll never know as this was truly, the last dance.