“I have a coaching style that probably doesn’t apply to all-star teams in the short term”

Phil Jackson is one of the most successful coaches in NBA history. Still, he didn’t believe the methods that had made him successful in his stints with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers would have made him as successful as the leader of USA Basketball.

Jackson seemed like one of the best options for coaching the U.S. team ahead of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. However, the Zen Master pointed out the philosophical differences with USA Basketball and suggested that his coaching style would not be conducive to leading an all-star team.

The Chicago Bulls only became dominant champions after hiring Phil Jackson before the 1989-90 NBA season

Former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause made the surprising decision to replace former head coach Doug Collins with Phil Jackson just months after Collins led the Bulls to the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals.

This decision changed the course of franchise history.

Jackson quickly got down to implementing the triangular offense devised by then-Bulls assistant Tex Winter. The idea was to get the ball out of Michael Jordan’s hands a bit more to create offensive opportunities for his teammates and make Chicago a more dangerous unit.

Jordan may have caved in at first, but the triangle made the Bulls a more complete group who could still look to MJ in tough times. Chicago won three consecutive championships between 1991 and 1993, then tripled again from 1996 to 1998.

Jackson wasn’t just an Xs and Os trainer. In reality, it’s probably secondary in terms of his coaching attributes. The most admirable trait of the Zen master was his ability to control his ego and motivate players in any way necessary.

Jackson used the internal turmoil depicted in Sam Smith Jordan Rules book to get your group together. In the second hat-trick, he pitted players at the front office when Krause threatened to break the team. The Hall of Famer also figured out how to give their guys, especially Dennis Rodman, a little rope to keep them fresh and hungry.

But despite his many successes, Jackson didn’t feel like the right man to coach the American team.

Jackson expressed skepticism about his ability to lead Team USA to Olympic glory

In 1998, Phil Jackson was preparing to win his sixth championship in eight years. However, with USA Basketball gearing up for the 2000 Olympics, he was not asked to coach the US team.

Jackson said in March 1998 that he thought USA Basketball officials weren’t really in love with his personality and his coaching style. He also wondered (h / t le Chicago Tribune) if he could be as successful with a team full of All-Stars as he was with the Bulls in an 82-game NBA season.

“I think philosophically and historically I’m a bit of a maverick there. I don’t know if that’s it or not. But they also understand that I am a private person in many ways and have a coaching style that is probably not applicable to All-Star teams in the short term.

–Phil Jackson (1998), via the Chicago Tribune

Jackson had another reason to avoid coaching the American team. He said international competitions could put “undue pressure” on coaches, citing Don Nelson’s tenure and saying the experience did not look “fun” for Nelson.

Looking back, Jackson might have been wise to avoid discussing Team USA. A labor dispute in the summer of 1998 led USA Basketball to select replacement players.

Ultimately, the lockout ended and former Houston Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich went on to lead the US team to a gold medal in Sydney. However, Jackson avoided what could have been a tumultuous transition period amid the lockout.

Assessing the validity of Jackson’s claims

Phil Jackson answers questions after practice at United Center in Chicago, IL | Robert Sullivan / AFP via Getty Images

Phil Jackson has never coached the US team. Should he have? While it may have been true that USA Basketball officials viewed Jackson as a “maverick,” his joke about “short-term All-Star teams” is worth analyzing.

Jackson has had no shortage of all-star coaches throughout his career, including Jordan, Rodman, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal, among others. He’s had a lot of success with these players. Who can say he couldn’t have made things work with Team USA? Further, Jackson’s past statements do not necessarily hold water when evaluated in a contemporary setting.

Like Jackson, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich likes to light a fire under his players. Some reports suggest members of the U.S. team were frustrated with Pop during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics last summer. Still, that didn’t stop Team USA from winning the gold medal.

So while Jackson’s desire to coach the U.S. team may have been fleeting, he almost certainly could have found a way to rally the talent around him and bring USA Basketball its fair share of success if it. had already done this job.

RELATED: Phil Jackson Said His Favorite Player Was ‘Like Another Coach’ For The Bulls, But He Ended Up Becoming A Car Salesman Instead


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