Larry Bird: Phil Jackson's Edge Was Having Top Talent

Exploring the Depths of Phil Jackson's Coaching Techniques.

by Nouman Rasool
Larry Bird: Phil Jackson's Edge Was Having Top Talent
© Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Renowned for his forthrightness both on and off the court, Larry Bird has never shied away from expressing his unfiltered opinions about the game of basketball. This trait remained evident when he weighed in on Phil Jackson's distinctive coaching philosophy, which earned Jackson the moniker "The Zen Master" due to his unconventional methods that included the implementation of the triangle offense and the practice of meditation.

In his 1999 memoir "Bird Watching," the Celtics legend delved into his perspective on Jackson's approach, which had garnered widespread acclaim across the NBA. Despite acknowledging Jackson's exceptional coaching prowess, Bird suggested that the presence of a superstar like Michael Jordan in the lineup perhaps cast the triangle offense in a more favorable light than it might have merited otherwise.

Bird Questions Jackson's Reads

Bird's critique extended beyond Jackson's meditation practices. He also touched upon another of Jackson's unique strategies: assigning personalized reading material to players, aimed at nurturing their mental growth.

This method received mixed reactions from the team, yet Jackson's impressive collection of 11 championship rings stands as a testament to his effective, albeit unconventional, coaching style. However, Bird seemed to imply that the success of Jackson's strategies, including the much-discussed triangle offense, was heavily reliant on the caliber of the players executing them.

He praised the defensive prowess of the Bulls, particularly highlighting the contributions of Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, suggesting that their defensive excellence was a key factor in the team's success, rather than the offensive schemes.

Despite his critique of the triangle offense, Bird did not diminish Jackson's contributions to the Bulls' dynasty. Instead, he appeared to advocate for a recognition of Jackson's coaching acumen that extends beyond his most well-known tactics.

Bird's comments reflect a nuanced view of basketball strategy, emphasizing the importance of player talent and defensive capability in achieving team success.