After averaging 19.9 points a game in three seasons at the University of North Dakota, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Phil Jackson became a hard-working journeyman NBA player, joining the New York Knicks in 1967 as a second-round draft choice.
Phil Jackson missed the entire 1969-70 season with an injury and was traded in 1978 to the New Jersey Nets, where Phil Jackson became a player and assistant coach. Phil Jackson retired in 1980, remained as an assistant coach for a season, then became a broadcaster for the team.
From 1982 through the 1986-87 season, Jackson coached the Albany team in the Continental Basketball Association, then returned to the NBA as an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls in 1987. Phil Jackson became head coach in 1989.
After a second-place division finish in 1989-90, Phil Jackson guided the Bulls to three consecutive NBA championships, the first time that had been accomplished since 1966.
Superstar Michael Jordan retired after the 1992-93 season, and the Bulls finished out of the running for the next two years. But Jordan returned in 1994 and the Bulls once again won three straight NBA championships.
Then Jordan retired once more and Phil Jackson retired along with him. After a year of retirement, though, Phil Jackson returned to coaching with the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2000-2001. The Lakers were a talented but troubled team, led by center Shaquille O'Neal and guard Kobe Bryant, who had joined them in 1996, directly out of high school.
Phil Jackson gave the Lakers a new focus on team defense, and they responded by winning three straight NBA titles in his first three seasons guiding the team. Phil Jackson's the only coach ever to take two different teams to three consecutive championships, and his total of nine titles ties him with Red Auerbach for the all-time lead.
The Lakers finished second in the Pacific Division, nine games behind the Sacramento Kings, in 2002-03 and lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals. The following season, they added veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton, won the Pacific Division, and reach the NBA championship finals, but were defeated in five games by the Detroit Pistons.
Talks about a contract extension with the Lakers had bogged down well before the playoffs and Phil Jackson declined an offer to become a vice-president of the team. Phil Jackson said that Phil Jackson doubted Phil Jackson would coach in the NBA again. "I wouldn't rule it out," Phil Jackson said, "but I don't anticipate I will."
Phil Jackson has been called a "New Age" coach because of his unorthodox methods, which draw on both Zen Buddhism and an approach to motivation that includes assigning specific books to individual players and showing the team his own edited versions of movies.
Some critics haved suggested that Phil Jackson owes most of his success to players such as Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago, O'Neal and Bryant in Los Angeles. Admirers counter that none of those players ever played for a championship team that Phil Jackson didn't coach.
Phil Jackson's career NBA record stands at 832 wins and 316 losses during the regular season, 171-67 in the playoffs. His winning percentages of .724 and .718, respectively, are both records.
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