The Phil versus Red Debate… The Math Says It’s Phil Over Red

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

You’ll never hear me say anything negative about Red Auerbach. How could you? He built the Celtics into the dynasty that the franchise still remains today. But Phil Jackson has passed Ol’ Red in overall greatness, even if he decides to retire.

Obviously, Phil Jackson’s numbers speak volumes. He has eleven NBA championships compared to Auerbach’s nine. Sports Geek actually said in a debate earlier this month that the only statistic that truly matters is championships, and that’s something Jackson has over Auerbach. In nineteen seasons as a head coach, do you want to guess how many times Jackson has made the playoffs? You guessed it… nineteen, including 13 appearances in the Finals. He’s had a winning season EVERY single season. Can Auerbach say that? No, he can’t. He actually went 36-36 during the 1954-55 season. Jackson’s worst record is 42-40. Overall, Jackson has 1,098 wins in those nineteen seasons, which is an average of almost 58 wins per regular season. Perhaps the coolest stat to me – the one that defines his greatness – is that from the 1995-96 season to the 2001-02 season, a Phil Jackson-led team had a victory celebration downtown. After those last three titles with the Bulls, he hopped across the country to Los Angeles and won three consecutive titles with the Lakers. That’s six seasons and six titles! That’s impressive.

Jackson’s critics have said that he has inherited the teams that ultimately won championships. Yes, he certainly didn’t build these teams from scratch, but how many of these teams won championships before he got there? You may say, “Well anyone could have won with Michael Jordan.” Doug Collins didn’t. The Bulls made the playoffs under Collins, but they couldn’t get over the hump. In just his second season as Bulls coach, Jackson won his first championship, and that was followed directly by two more. This is the period of time when Jordan began taking his legacy to another level. Doesn’t Jackson deserve some credit for taking His Airness to that next level? Six championships later, Michael Jordan is arguably considered the best NBA player ever.

Likewise, how many championships did Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant win before Phil Jackson became courtside buddies with Jack Nicholson? Again, people say, “Well anyone could have won with Shaq and Kobe on the team.” Well, Del Harris didn’t. Jackson’s first season in L.A. was a championship winning season, and it was the first season that Kobe averaged over twenty points in a season. He hasn’t looked back since. After the bitter breakup between Shaq, Kobe, and Phil Jackson, the Lakers missed the playoffs. Jackson comes back, and in that first season after returning, in the 2005-06 season, the Lakers return to the playoffs. Just like it was with Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant both took their games to another level while playing under Phil Jackson.

That’s something I think that a lot of people overlook. Sure, he inherited teams with stars on their rosters. But he took them to championship levels that were unknown before his arrival. Overall, the bottom line is championships. And, my bachelor’s degree tells me that eleven is more than nine. What does that tell you?

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