I spend a great deal of my free time reading books about the NBA and I had previously read Red Auerbach's book. I consider Red Auerbach as the greatest NBA coach but many would disagree considering the number of championships Phil Jackson now has. I felt like I knew a good amount of Jackson from his interviews and what has been written about him but I wanted to know more about how he coached and what sort of techniques he used and his book "Sacred Hoops" was a great way to understand him better.
Jackson tells stories about his days in the NBA and his time with the Knicks and their championship in 1973. The way he describes himself as a person during that time is completely different from how he would describe himself now after discovering the ways of Zen Buddhism and incorporating it into his coaching style.
Jackson goes on to explain the transition he made from playing to coaching and how he would have the task of trying to take the Bulls to the next level after the removal of head coach Doug Collins. As an interesting side note, Jackson explains how during a playoff series during their playing days, Collins actually came up to Jackson after a game to shake his hand but he blew him off because he didn't want to seem like he was admitting defeat before the series was over. He was a fierce competitor but also flew off the handle at times and displayed poor sportsmanship.
But back to his first season as head coach of the Bulls, he mentions the implementation of the triangle offense that is based off of ball movement, floor spacing and unselfishness. The emphasis was placed on unselfishness.
It took some time before he was able to get the Bulls to focus and become mentally tougher but they were eventually able to defeat the Detroit Pistons en route to their first of 3 consecutive titles.
There were some difficulties along the way and Jackson explains how he needed to be understanding of the players. He cites the example of Horace Grant who was playing out the final year of his contract. He described Grant as a devoted Christian who worked hard and was an ideal teammate. However, in the final year of his contract, he was more concerned with his future rather than focusing his attention solely on the current season. Jackson felt that he had to understand what his players were going through.
Grant's contract season was also the year that Michael Jordan had left the Bulls to play baseball. Jackson had very little to work with in terms of finding a replacement on the free agent market and inserted Pete Myers into the starting lineup.
The Bulls went on to win nearly as many games as the previous season with Jordan and the Bulls made it to the brink of the Eastern Conference Finals. Had it not been for a questionable call on Scottie Pippen earlier in the series, they might have had their 4th consecutive title.
Jackson went on to explain how he dwelled on that series and the call for the entire summer and that's something that people don't really know about coaches. They tend to get obsessed over winning because in the NBA, the coach is always the first one to go. They constantly thinking about what they could have done differently in certain situations and spend many sleepless nights as a result.
Of course everyone who watched the Bulls in the 90's knows that Michael Jordan returned to the Bulls and led them to another 3 peat but it was more difficult than people can imagine. Jackson explains how Jordan's return meant that he would be playing with players he had never played with and at times, the players would stand and be in awe of his talent and skills and would fail to properly execute the triangle offense.
During the Bulls' 95-'96 season, the team was in a good rhythm and put together a number of winning streaks but they had to deal with injuries and swarms of media following them everywhere when the team was nearing the 70 win mark. Jackson was able to keep the team focused which led to the 72 wins in the regular season and into the playoffs where they were able to make it to the NBA finals without much difficultly and eventually knocked off the Sonics in 6 games.
I found it interesting that despite winning championships, Jackson was not completely happy. It wasn't until he was able to discover Zen and incorporate what he had learned through Christianity before he was able to feel that he was living a more complete life. This book is primarily focused on spirituality and goes on to explain how he was able to incorporate what he had learned into his coaching. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a basketball fan or in a position of leadership. At the same time I believe that anyone who does not fall into either of the categories would enjoy this book as well, as it is well written and will get the reader to think critically about how people treat one another.
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About the reviewer
Peter Kim (YungBolo)
I love basketball, exercise, reading, business, movies and occasionally some brainless reality TV shows =P I am more than happy to help anyone out with anything here on Lunch and definitely looking forward … more
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An inside look at the higher wisdom of teamwork from Chicago Bulls' head coach Phil Jackson. At the heart of the book is Jackson's philosophy of mindful basketball -- and his lifelong quest to bring enlightenment to the competitive world of professional sports, beginning with a focus on selfless team play rather than "winning through intimidation". Sacred Hoops is not just for sports fans, but for anyone interested in the potential of the human spirit.