Phil Jackson is quickly becoming a living legend. He is the winningest coach in NBA playoff history. He has coached some of the greatest players in the history of the sport, players who are universally recognizable by singular names. Names like Jordan, Shaq, and Kobe. He holds the record for NBA titles with 11, and it seems that he has seen and done it all in his coaching career.
With yet another NBA championship added to Phil Jackson’s resumé this year, it begs the question: Is Phil the greatest NBA coach of all time?
Obviously the Zen Master is most dominant contemporary coach, but to earn the title of “greatest of all time” someone must prove that he is better than all those before him. Only one man immediately comes to mind and challenges Phil for the top spot in NBA history – Red Auerbach.
Red Auerbach is a coaching icon. He led the Boston Celtics to an unprecedented eight straight NBA championships between 1959-1966, and was a central figure in the integration of the sport. He won the Eastern Division title 10 of 16 years, and left coaching in 1966 as the winningest coach in NBA history, with 938 victories, at the time. These statistics are even more compelling considering he never coached a league leading scorer. While these feats are no doubt impressive in their own right, do they compare with what Phil Jackson has accomplished?
Only a good debate can decide that, and Sports Geek and Loyal Homer are more than happy to oblige us in today’s epic question: Who is the greatest of all time – Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach?
Sports Geek will have to prove that what Auerbach accomplished during his day was more impressive and important to the game of basketball than the records the Jackson holds. Loyal Homer, on the other hand, will need to prove that Jackson’s leadership was the instrumental cause in the success of the programs he coached, rather than the result of hiring high priced mercenaries. He will need to prove that Jackson has actually revolutionized the game just as Red did before him.
Debates are always heated when the title of “greatest of all time” is on the line, and I expect this one to be no different.