Doug Collins and Phil Jackson: Off-Court Stars
The release of ESPN’s ten-part documentary “The Last Dance” which follows Michael Jordan‘s last season with the Chicago Bulls has brought the spotlight to parts of the organization outside of the players. Viewers have heard from various players including Jim Paxson and Scottie Pippen during the first two weeks of the documentary, but those who put in the work off of the court are highlighted as well. In the first part of this series, we highlighted the roles of Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause in the Bulls’ championship success. Doug Collins and Phil Jackson were also important parts of the Bulls’ iconic 1990s run.
Impact of Doug Collins and Phil Jackson
Doug Collins has a long history with basketball, starring on his high school team and progressing to play at the collegiate level for Illinois State. He was selected as an All-American and Academic All-American for all three years of his time in college. Collins was the first player in school history to receive enshrinement into the collegiate Hall of Fame.
Collins also played for the United States Olympic Men’s Basketball Team. He was a part of the 1972 team that lost in the controversial final game to the USSR. The team received a silver medal in the games but refused the award.
The following year, Collins was drafted first overall by the Philadephia 76ers, where he spent his whole eight-year NBA career. Collins averaged 17.9 points per game on 50.1 percent shooting during his time in the league, earning four All-Star nods.
In 1986, Collins became the youngest head coach in the NBA when he was hired by the Bulls to replace Kevin Loughery.
Collins spent three years with Chicago, where he bonded deeply with the players (Jordan in particular) before he was replaced by Phil Jackson in 1989. Under Collins’ leadership, the Bulls reached their first Eastern Conference Finals in the Michael Jordan era. Collins left the organization with a head coaching record of 137-109.
He went on to coach for the Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, and Philadelphia 76ers. In 2013, he retired as the head coach of the 76ers. After his retirement, Collins went into sports media and was a broadcaster with NBC Sports, ABC/ESPN, and Turner Sports. He received the Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2009.
Collins retired from ESPN in 2017 to return to the Bulls as a senior advisor and is still employed with the organization.
His Years as a Player
Phil Jackson is a legendary name in basketball. After high school, he played college basketball at the University of North Dakota. Jackson was then drafted by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1967 NBA Draft. He spent 10 seasons with the Knicks from 1967-78 before heading to New Jersey to play with the Nets for two years. The big man averaged 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in his NBA career.
The Knicks won the championship twice during Jackson’s time with the team, in 1970 and 1973.
The next step of his career led him to a position as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Nets. He also spent time coaching in the CBA and the Puerto Rico BSN. It was with the CBA that he won his first championship as a coach.
In 1987, Jackson became an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls under Doug Collins and was hired as the head coach two years later.
Chicago Bulls Years
In Jackson’s first year as head coach of the Bulls, the team went 55-27 in the regular season and 10-6 in the playoffs. Just a year later, the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA Championship. They went on to win two more rings to put together the first three-peat in the NBA since the Celtics won eight titles in a row from 1959-66.
Chicago won their second three-peat after 1997-98 season, which was also Jackson’s last season with the Bulls. Since the release of “The Last Dance”, it’s been brought to light that following contract disputes, Jackson was informed that even if Chicago won 82 games and took home another championship in 1998, he would be let go.
Ten years prior to this, Krause fought tooth and nail to bring Jackson on board with the Bulls. In the fourth episode of “The Last Dance”, it is revealed that Jackson was turned down after his first interview with the organization, so Krause instructed him on what to wear and how to speak. With a little coercion from Krause, the Bulls brought Jackson aboard.
It has been rumored that the relationship between Krause and Jackson went sour because of the attention and praise that Jackson received for the Bulls’ success.
The Los Angeles Lakers Years
Jackson vowed to never coach again and took one year off after he left Chicago. Despite that, he returned to the NBA as the new head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson coached the Lakers for several years before stepping down in 2011.
Jackson had a consistently stacked roster throughout his tenure with the Lakers. This included NBA legends, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Jackson also coached former Bulls players, Horace Grant, Ron Harper, and John Salley while in Los Angeles. He acquired other legends such as Karl Malone, Gary Payton, and Pau Gasol via trades during his tenure. He truly has coached some of the greatest players in the NBA, amassing 11 rings as a head coach.
On Christmas Day in 2008, Jackson became the sixth head coach to win 1000 games. Then, on Feb. 3, 2010, he recorded his 534th win as the Lakers’ head coach, surpassing legendary coach Pat Riley.
Jackson was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2007.
Following Jackson’s coaching career he moved up into the executive level of the NBA. From 2014-2017, Jackson was the president of the New York Knicks organization.
The Legacy of Doug Collins and Phil Jackson
The Chicago Bulls will always be the NBA dynasty of the 1990s. Michael Jordan was inarguably the largest part of the success of the organization during those years. However, it takes commitment and cooperation from all levels of the team for complete success. Doug Collins and Phil Jackson both played huge parts in shaping that iconic dynasty.