Michael Jordan was not very fond of Phil Jackson’s coaching style, and found it difficult to adjust to his system compared to Doug Collins’.
Phil Jackson’s has had the opportunity to coach his fair share of NBA legends. Be it Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O’Neal, Phil Jackson has always found a way to manage big egos on his squads.
While the ‘Zen Master’ was known for popularizing the intricate “triangle offence”, he has been praised for his man-management skills. His players have always lauded his ability to lead his teams, exuding calmness in clutch situations.
With the man came his quirks, however. He maintained a strained relationship with superstar Kobe Bryant throughout their time in LA. Phil and Carmelo Anthony never quite got along in New York. With Michael Jordan, the story was a little different. Phil Jackson’s firing was a major reason behind MJ’s decision to retire in 1998.
MJ and Phil led the Bulls to 6 championships in 8 years, forming a dominant dynasty. MJ had loved his coach’s player-friendly attitude, and he respected him immensely on the court. But all was not rosy from the get go apparently.
Michael Jordan had resented Bulls GM Jerry Krause’s decision to replace Doug Collins with Phil Jackson in 1989
Forfeiting his chemistry with former HC Doug Collins was not easy for Jordan. Doug’s system was pretty MJ iso-centric, and everything hinged on the alpha guy to deliver. When Phil Jackson came in, he entirely changed the scenario.
“I wasn’t a Phil Jackson fan when he first came in. He wanted to take the ball out of my hands. Doug Collins put the ball in my hands.”
– Michael Jordan on the Bulls hiring the Zen Master pic.twitter.com/YRLG0kJqZd
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) September 17, 2021
Phil wanted MJ to trust his teammates more. Jordan was getting older everyday, and running isolation-plays for the entire game wasn’t feasible anymore. It would take some time before MJ would truly embrace the situation, and understand how Phil’s system could be beneficial.
We all know what happened next. This was Phil Jackson’s first major coaching gig, and despite losing to the Pistons in ’90, he lead the Bulls to sustained glory in the coming decade.