Nothing that you may have read by or about Jackson makes any sense when you consider the utter train wreck that he helped facilitate during his days as the president of team operations for the New York Knicks. In fact, it is downright puzzling to witness a man–who at one time was considered one of the greatest active minds in basketball—shit on his own legacy in such a short period of time. From his awkward attempts at running a Twitter account, to his public breakup with Lakers co-owner Jeannie Buss, to his bizarre feud with Carmelo Anthony, things have been nothing short of cringe worthy for the Zen Master.
I’ve written extensively about Phil Jackson’s coaching acumen and his basketball I.Q. when I reviewed Crazy Basketball and More Than a Game, and I felt compelled to write about him again because why not? His insistence alone on espousing the basketball purity of the “Triangle Offense” is reason enough to doubt Jackson’s reasoning. You would think that someone who believes that impermanence is a fundamental fact of life (you can’t step into the same river twice) would be able to adjust with the times. But no. Phil fucked it up for everyone, and my boy, Alex Knapp called it the very first day that the Knicks introduced Derek Fisher as the next New York head coach (wow doesn’t that seem forever ago?).
I can’t say that this book has more to offer than Maverick, or More Than a Game, it details the beginning of his coaching career, when (much like Luke Walton) his playing career was cut short by injuries. Jackson notes that sitting next to the legendary Red Holtzman during games taught him a different way of looking at the game of basketball.
Jackson talks about the development of his personal beliefs in accordance with his own basketball philosophies. Raised Pentecostal, he grew to embrace a Zen Christianity form of religion, and used that to help teach his viewpoints about basketball, invoking phrases like “Chop Wood, Carry Water”, “Don’t let anger cloud the mind”, and “awareness is everything”.
When Phil discovered Tex Winter’s “Triple Post” Offense, he felt that it encompassed everything he wanted to teach to his basketball players, that it was a structure that could empower everyone on the floor, and that it employed the seven principles of a sound offensive strategy.
The book does a great job of taking the reader through Jackson’t time coaching in the Puerto Rican Superior League and for the CBA’s Albany Patroons, where he experimented with his lineups and personnel. He played two five man units in eight minute intervals, with the best playing five guys in the final eight minute quarter. Interestingly enough, each player was paid the exact same wage, which is something a team could only get away with in a non-NBA league back then.
It is a pretty enjoyable read, and if one can somehow forget that any of the post Lakers era stuff happened, then it is easier to read Jackson talk about the philosophy of mindfulness without a bit of cynicism creeping in. It’s hard to not laugh when reading Jackson tell a player that the “power of we is stronger than the power of me.” knowing that he made Melo’s final season as a Knick a living hell.
I suggest that any basketball fan, or aspiring coach read this book, but to also take everything with a grain of salt. I don’t know whether to think Phil Jackson is a genius, a guru, a huckster, or a hypocrite. I can say however, that he is one of the more compelling characters to make an impact in the NBA, and this book is just another example of this fact.
Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org