There’s a reason Phil Jackson‘s name is recognized by many NBA fans across the globe. For most, he is one of the greatest coaches of all-time with 11 championships roaming the sidelines for both the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers.
To others, he is the poster-boy of front-office incompetence, having turned the New York franchise into an even bigger laughing-stock than it was prior to his arrival in 2014. What a good amount tend to forget is his impact on the Knicks of the 1970s, where his intelligence and unselfishness were a welcomed sight.
Jackson spent a decade in the Big Apple, although he was never one to step into the spotlight with averages of just 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Still, he proved useful at the defensive end where his 6-foot-8 frame combined with long arms and tremendous effort was used to help guard the opposition.
The Knicks teams of that decade weren’t built on star power. Sure, they had All-Stars and future Hall of Famers, but their greatness came from their unselfishness on the court through not only passing to the open man, but actively seeking him out.
During his playing days, Jackson’s potential as a head coach was clear through a style of play that fit well with what New York did night in and night out. He possessed a high IQ that allowed him to read and react to defenses, while his want to play with an all-out mentality endeared him to teammates.
He was a member of the last Knicks’ championship in 1972-73 and averaged nearly 20 minutes per game. With so many years having passed, Jackson’s impact is difficult to quantify, given how little of it came in the stat sheet.
The few who remember that magical season knows of his true contributions, a player limited in terms of tangible skills who didn’t let that stop him from doing everything else to help his team win.