AirTalk for May 28, 2013

'Zen Master' NBA coach Phil Jackson reveals his secrets to success

Phil Jackson

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson at the KPCC studios.

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns, Game 4

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Head coach Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on in the first quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at US Airways Center on May 25, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Phil Jackson

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Phil Jackson and Larry Mantle in the KPCC studios on May 28th, 2013.

Former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers Phil Jackson's new memoir, "Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success"


This weekend, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich caught up to one of former Lakers coach Phil Jackson's incredible records. Popovich tied Jackson for the most best-of-7 series sweeps in NBA history.

Does Jackson ever feel tempted to return to the sidelines to keep his stats up? He says he has no plans to return, but rumors continue to fly about various cities trying to tempt him, especially because of how close he came to returning to the Lakers at the start of the season. 

Jackson served as head coach of the L.A. Lakers from 2000 to 2010, winning five NBA titles for the franchise.  He was head coach of the Chicago Bills from 1989 to 1998, winning six NBA titles. Jackson also played professional basketball for the NBA championship-winning New York Knicks. 

In his new memoir, "Eleven Rings," the former Lakers coach talks about the love and spirituality that won all those games, swept all those series and scored all those rings.

Interview Highlights:

On how Bill Fitch's coaching style informed his own:
"Bill was a task master, that seemed to be the way college coaches were at the time. Militaristic, a lot of that hierarchy that was in the ranks of the military. Coming home during a Christmas holiday, having a bad game against the Univ. of Iowa, getting off the plane at 10:00 and going to right to practice through midnight. A three-hour practice to emphasize how badly we played and the discipline that would come after it. Bill was a young man at that time, 32, 33, so that was the style that he chose. He was a terrific NBA coach...but this is a style that I felt was not going to mesh with NBA players."

On how he gained the respect of his players:
"I think there's a deep respect for coaches that players have. Its ingrained. Some players have always rebelled, or maybe they started out in high school rebelling, but for the most part you're taught that your coach is your leader. He's going to direct the play and do what you have to get done. If you appeal to that part of them, you can win them over.

"There's a little exercise that was something my assistant coach John Bach got from Vince Lombardi, who coached his freshman Fordham basketball team. He had them all line up on the baseline and make a declaration. I would do that before the season started to let them physically know that they were buying into what we were going to do here. I would started out with God has ordained me and the owner to teach you and coach you about the system of basketball."

On how using rituals help solidify a team:
"Having grown up in a church, there's a certain thing that you fall into. One of the things that you find when you're in a religious service is the ability to relax when a ritual comes into play. It gives a person that's used to a ritual or format a comfort zone to feel like this is a place I belong. When you do that everybody seems to find a bond together. I use rituals and routines that I thought weren't too mundane, but brought some of the espirit d'corps into the group."

Excerpt from Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson


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