Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Can Phil Jackson coach?

The NBA playoffs are in full swing- which means I will be staying up watching late night West Coast blow-outs just to see if Phoenix can hit 100 points by the end of the 3rd quarter. Kobe and the Lakers were hammered by the Suns by 30 points in the "game". Lakers coach Phil Jackson was powerless to stop the Suns attack.

Jackson has never won a coach of the year award, but has 9 NBA titles. Golden State's Don Nelson has won mltiple coach of the year awards, but no NBA titles. This year, Toronto's Sam Mitchell won the award because the Raptors won 20 more games this year than they did last year. Other good coaches, like San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and Houston's Jeff Van Gundy, made the mistake of having multiple good players on their team. That means that potential voters won't vote for them because they did not have to "coach" as much to get victories. It didn't matter that Van Gundy's best players missed significant chunks of the season. They were dealt a perceived better hand than Mitchell, whose team had an inferior record in an inferior conference.

Meanwhile, Jackson's detractors point to the fact that he has only won titles when he had the most dominant players in the NBA on his team (Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant). The logic is that anyone can win with the best players. If that is true, why hasn't every season produced a 70+ win team like the Bulls in '95-96? And why have Jordan and Shaq only combined for 1 title without Jackson? (note, Pat Riley, the coach who won with Shaq and Dwyane Wade in Miami, was accused of being overrated because he had the gall to coach Magic and Kareem at the same time) You don't fall ot of bed and win 9 rings no matter who is on your roster. However, he can't get his undermanned Laker team to beat a superior Phoenix team, while Don Nelson has won some playoff serieses (sp?) with small lineups and less than stellar talent.

I think coaching skill is relative. For instance, an authoritarian like Gregg Popovich (owner of 3 rings) would fail miserably with the Bulls of the late 90's because his style would clash with Jordan, Rodman, and Pippen. Phil Jackson can get the most out of veteran players, while a Don Nelson or Avery Johnson can get more from younger players who need more help in skill development.

A better question to ask is: Can Phil Jackson coach a particular team "X"? I ask this given that teams (and businesses and patients) want star coaches and leadres and doctors, when the star does not necessarily have the right skill set for the task at hand.

1 comment:

Gavin said...

Thanks for Nelly.
Love, The Bay Area

Oh...you're welcome for Ron Washington too.