Wisch: No Bull? Phil Jackson Is More Of A Laker

By Dave Wischnowsky–

CHICAGO (CBS) When he belonged to Chicago, he had a thick and dark(ish) head of hair, a mustache worthy of Magnum P.I., and a championship swagger that befit the six-ring circus he ran on the city’s West Side.

These days, having belonged to L.A., the hair is thinning and white(ish), the mustache – having evolved a beard and a Fu Manchu – is completely gone, and that championship swagger was last seen on Sunday night limping off into the Dallas sunset.

Although, it still had a pretty pompous smirk.

(I suppose five additional rings will do that to a guy.)

Yes, it’s been a long time since Phil Jackson was a resident of the Windy City – 13 years, to be precise. But now that his legendary coaching career is (apparently) at its end, I’ve been left wondering if Chicagoans will truly remember the Lakers’ coach as a Chicago Bull.

Or has the Zen Master just gone too Hollywood for that?

“It’s been a wonderful run,” Jackson said on Sunday after the Mavericks had officially swept his Lakers out the playoff door.

And considering it’s featured 1,155 victories, 11 NBA titles and three of the top 10 or 12 players of all time, the run most certainly has been a wonder.

But which city can claim to be a bigger part of Jackson’s legacy?

In one of the curiosities of basketball, Phil Jackson actually has been a member of into the Naismith Hall of Fame back since 2007 – four years before he’s (supposedly) retired. And while basketball’s version of Cooperstown doesn’t slap team caps on its inductees, if it had, the debate over which Jackson would have worn would have put last year’s Expos vs. Cubs argument about Andre Dawson to shame.

As head coach of the Bulls for nine seasons, Jackson won 545 regular-season games and six NBA championships, forever branding himself with Michael Jordan. And as head coach of the Lakers for 11 seasons, he won 610 regular-season games and five titles, forever branding himself with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

Last June’s, Ron Harper – who won three championships in Chicago with Jackson as his coach, and then two more with him in L.A – was asked by the Chicago Tribune about Jackson’s basketball identity.

“He’s always going to be a Bull,” Harper said. “No matter who else we played for, I’m a Bull, MJ’s a Bull, Phil’s a Bull.

“What we did as a team is going to be hard to ever duplicate. We had guys who truly loved to play the game and loved to be teammates. Phil has done a great job in L.A. and when we won there, it was fun. But deep in our hearts, we’ll always be Bulls.”

On the other hand, Andrew Siciliano, the host of the popular “LA Sports Live” midday show on the Lakers’ flagship radio station KSPN-AM 710, said this about Jackson last June:

“He’s a Bull, but when all is said and done he likely will be known as a Laker.”

Ron Artest, meanwhile, summed things up by saying, “I think he’ll be remembered for both. He has done great things in both places. Great, great things.”

I won’t argue with Artest on that, but here’s my take on this debate: Jackson will, of course, always be remembered for coaching the Bulls to six championships. But those teams weren’t truly his. They were Jordan’s.
In L.A., however, things have felt different. Thanks largely to his championship pedigree, Jackson has cast a longer shadow in SoCal. And as a result, the Lakers teams have been his at least as much – and I’d argue even more so – as they were Kobe’s or Shaq’s.

So, my feeling is that, while it’s a close race, L.A. can probably stake a claim to Phil a little more strongly these days than Chicago can. But that’s all right, we’ll still take MJ, the six rings – and a 2011 Bulls team that’s still alive in the playoffs tonight.

This year’s Lakers, meanwhile, have had their Phil.

Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

davewisch Wisch: No Bull? Phil Jackson Is More Of A Laker

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    At least Phil didn’t have a Jerry Krause to kick him out of LA.

    I remember seeing Phil play for the NY Knicks back in the Tom Boerwinkle days.
    I would be surprisd but not shocked if he became the Knicks Coach in the next year or so.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      I don’t think it’s likely, but I could see it happening, Arse. I think the Knicks are going to realize pretty soon that D’Antoni (there should be no “D” in his name) likely isn’t the guy to lead them to a championship. And, while, Phil is getting up there in years, he probably still has a few left in him if he’d like to continue.

      After a year off, it’s possible he might get bored, as Rick Carlisle surmised earlier this week.

      As for the end of the Jackson/Jordan/Championship era in Chicago, the way Krause handled that was simply inexcusable. The Bulls could have still won another ring.

    • whitem0nkey

      it takes 3 to tango, it was not all 1 person’s fault. Jordan, Krause, and Phil all share equal blame on the break up.

      • Dave Wischnowsky

        I’ll agree, there’s blame — and even more egos — to go all around in the situation, but I think with Krause declaring it was Jackson’s last season before the 1997-98 season even began makes him more culpable than the others.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Krause’s people-skills were as smooth as broken glass.

  • whitem0nkey

    He won more championships here, he is more a bull.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Certainly a valid point, whitem0nkey. Appreciate you weighing in. I just think Jackson’s persona and image has become more tied to L.A. over the past decade than to Chicago. He’ll always be a Bulls legend with what he did here, but I just feel he’s more of a Laker these days and that the L.A. teams were truly is, whereas the teams in Chicago actually belonged to Michael.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    While I believe the Bulls will beat the Hawks in 7, for tonight’s game I’m as nervous as a cat near an open fire hydrant.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Atlanta — and Josh Smith, in particular — gained a full head of steam in Game 4, and I agree there is cause for concern. Smith is a scary player if he plays smart, and the Hawks really do have a ton of talent, albeit undisciplined. If they build on what they did on Sunday, the Bulls could be in trouble.

      I still think the Bulls will win this series, and I’ll pick them to win tonight, too, but they need more than just Derrick Rose if they’re going to keep this playoff run rolling. I really wish they had a scorer out of the 2 guard spot. They need it.

  • E B F

    Jackson seems to be more connected to the Lakers because up until the sweep his run there was in the now. The Jordan Bulls feels like it was in a galaxy far, far away and long, long ago. By the way Dave, why don’t these Bulls apply full-court pressure after they make shots and free throws? They seem to operate with no real sense of urgency.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      E B F,

      I think the time factor definitely does play into the perception of Jackson these days — or, at least, my own personal perception.

      As for this incarnation of the Bulls, I think there’s been an overall lack of urgency throughout the playoffs thus far. I’m really not sure what to make of it, but Game 3 of the Hawks series is the only time that they’ve appeared to look — and act — like a No. 1 overall seed. And that largely was because Rose was just in such a zone that night. I’m not sure if the Bulls just need the Heat or the Celtics to wake them up, or if they’re just not quite as good as they appeared throughout the regular season.

      Something’s missing, though. And while I think the Bulls will still find a way to win this series, I don’t have a feeling that things bode well for the Eastern Conference Finals. They just have not had the look of a champion so far — let’s hope they find it. And find someone else to hit some big shots besides Rose. Perhaps using more pressure defense could be the key to sparking this team’s fire — I certainly wouldn’t be against Thibodeau playing that card tonight. Game 5, quite clearly, is a pivotal one.

  • Murphs Upper-Lip

    Such an important game tonight… I’ll really be surprised if tonight’s winner doesn’t go on to win the series. In all honesty, this has looked like one of, if not the worst, stretches of basketball the Bulls have played this season. By that logic, they really should bounce back and put the Hawks away, statistically speaking.

    The Lakers with Phil have had an excellent run (pointing out the obvious.) But, if we’re talking what the majority of people throughout the country, throughout the world, think of Jackson more as, a Laker or a Bull, I have to believe it’s a Bull. In ten years, many people will remember the Lakers fantastic team, first the Shaq and Kobe years, then the Phil and Kobe years; but, the Bulls championship teams transcended sports, they were their own brand. While it’s MJeff that is the main ingredient to that brand, Phil was a very big part, I’d say he and Scottie were 2A and 2B. The Lakers have been good… great? Sure. But they ain’t the rock stars that the 90’s Bulls and Phil were.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      On a global scale, I’d say you’re definitely right, Upper-Lip. There’s no way that the Lakers struck the global consciousness in the same way that the Bulls did — or even came close. And in that regard, Jackson would definitely be associated with the Bulls. Although, I do wonder if people globally even think of who coached the Bulls, or if they just think of Michael Jordan, Pippen, etc. That’s actually an interesting question.

      I think an argument can certainly be made both ways for which city can claim Jackson to a greater extent today. To me, he just feels more L.A. for the reasons I’ve stated above. However, I think time will very likely provide greater context to this argument once Jackson is removed from the sidelines for a few years. Fact is, he’ll be remembered for both teams, of course. But I just think he owned these Lakers ones.

      As for these current Bulls, I really do think that they’ve played probably their worst — or, at least, mediocre — prolonged stretch of basketball throughout these playoffs, for whatever reason. That either bodes well for tonight — and here on out. Or … it doesn’t.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        MJ was the global super-duper-star.
        I remember a friend of mine, who was in the furniture busiess, going on a trip to check-out a potential suplier in China in about 1992-93. He was in some remote village and was shown the housing of a “typical worker” and in the son’s bedroom was an MJ poster on the wall.

        Nationally, Phil was more of a presence in LA.

        By the way, it’s great to see M U-L posting here…..he always brings some excellent analysis or really LOL funny stuff.

      • Murphs Upper-Lip

        Thanks LHA, hope those sea-gulls stay away from the UC tonight… I’m going to the game and will be looking for a cold one or two…. wait, the Cubs are home tonight so the ‘gulls should have plenty of room at Wrigley…

  • Jake from da Burbs

    The question is, who gets to decide which team he retires with? Is it the Basketball Hall of Fame or is it Phil Jackson himself?

    Besides this question though, the real struggle for me is: Phil doesn’t get the Lakers job if it wasn’t for what he did with the Bulls. In this light, the Bulls run and legacy was the true trailblazer and was one that should be remembered in higher regard. However, what Phil accomplished in L.A. taking two differently constructed teams (with the exception of Bryant as the focal point) to deep post season and championship runs might be more of a coaching accomplishment that when he did with the Bulls (from a purely coaching perspective)

    Then again, the pessimist and minimalist would argue that Phil Jackson inherited two of the greatest pre-constructed teams of all time and he will be the greatest point B to point C guy but has never taken a team from the depths of losing to the heights of winning.

    It certainly is an interesting discussion.

    • Murphs Upper-Lip

      Just a fun question, you don’t go into the basketball hall of fame with any individual team, I believe.

  • Mike

    I have to disagree. Nothing against the dynasty he established in LA, but he always has been, is, and always will be a Bull. Even if those teams were more Jordan’s than Jackson’s, (they were btw) they were so significant to basketball that anyone who was a part of them is forever defined by them regardless of what else they went on to do. We never have and probably never will see another team not only dominate, but completely re-define basketball like the Bulls of the 90s. His personal contributions were more significant in LA, but because he coached MJ, he will always be a Bull.

  • FletchGuy

    I have to say I see no doubt Phil will always be a Chicago Bull point blank. He was forced to the Lakers and he continued what he did in Chicago there. The fact is he took the Bulls to 6 championships, managed to make sure no egos were before the team in Chicago and he created the zen master ideaology which built his bigger then life story. Yes he won 5 in LA ,but those wins never seemed to carry the global excitement or pride as his with Micheal and Scottie teams did. The Lakers never seemed to be embrassed by the world outside LA as those Bulls teams and as mentioned what he did in Chicago made Phil Jackson have the name that took him into LA.
    To all of the fans who watched his coaching career Phill Jackson will always and has always been a Bull and that will never change even if we loaned him to LA for all those years. To Phil Jackson thank you for all you gave and for all the talent you guided through the years. Phil Jackson is to us all a true life long Chicago Bull.

  • Bob Shepherds Pie

    very pointless argument. very pointless article. who cares, and by the way, the second he was getting paid by the Lakers, he was a Laker. here’s a thought, folks in Chicago think of him as a Bull, an frolks in LA think of him as a Laker. amazing…….

  • Murphs Upper-Lip

    Hey, Dave, ya made the Chicago edition of Yahoo! headlines, congrats!

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