I have come to the conclusion that Phil Jackson is literally willing to disrespect anyone. You, me, the Pope, the President, your mother, his mother, Abraham Lincoln, Captain America, Jesus Christ, Chuck Norris, anyone. He really just does not care; his first priority is to make sure he maintains his lofty perch at the top.
Maybe the comments were taken out of context. Maybe he was ribbing an old colleague. Maybe it's not as bad as it sounds. But man, it doesn't sound good.
As noted this morning in Shootaround, the Houston Chronicle asked Phil Jackson about Rudy Tomjanovich's nomination for the Hall of Fame:
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said that it was "wonderful" that former Rockets and Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich was nominated for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Jackson offered a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement.via Rockets notes: Hall remarks about Tomjanovich | NBA Basketball | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle .
Asked if he thought Tomjanovich was deserving, Jackson said, "Well see. I'm not on that committee. I like all the coaches to get a chance to go in."Jackson agreed with the argument that the Rockets championships were tainted because Michael Jordan was out of the league for the first of their title seasons and much of the next."Definitely," Jackson said. "Without a doubt. Clearly, if the Bulls were whole, we would have won. Its pretty much registered by now. When Michael played, we won the championship."
Couple of things here. Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time. No one is arguing this. Phil Jackson is either 1a or 1b in terms of greatest coaches in NBA history. No one's really arguing that, it just depends on "a vs. b" if you're in green or purple. This isn't questioning the greatness of the mid-90's Bulls or the legacy of Phil Jackson nor Michael Jordan.
But straight up, this wasn't necessary.
Rudy Tomjanovich coached for 24 years in the NBA as either an assistant or head coach. During that time he established a .559 winning percentage. He had only two losing seasons during that stretch run, a .567 playoff winning percentage in the playoffs, and oh, yes, those two championships, asterisks or no. Tomjanovich went on to coach the Lakers in a disastrous season while Phil took some time off to go dance or meditate or whatever Phil Jackson does when he's not calling timeouts to coach the best players in NBA history.
Tomjanovich stayed on with the Lakers as a consultant and scout,and that's what's so disheartening about this. Tomjanovich worked hard for the Lakers, despite the fact that Kermit Washington, who broke Tomjanovich's face with The Punch, was a Laker at the time. He always held himself with class and success. And whether Jackson likes it or not, Michael Jordan did retire those two seasons, and the Houston Rockets were the best team in the league for those two years. Furthermore, as great as Jordan was, and as likely as a Bulls victory would have been, to overlook the 94-95 Rockets is to ignore a priceless season from Hakeem Olajuwon who was no slouch, and a team rife with shooters, versatility, and stellar defense. Maybe Olajuwon's Rockets wouldn't have beaten Jordan's Bulls. But it would have been one heck of a match.
Beyond the questions here is the fact that Phil Jackson simply didn't have to say that. He had no reason not to simply say "I think it would be tremendous for Rudy to make the Hall. I respect him as a friend and colleague." It's true that we want coaches to be more honest. But being passive-agressive and not extending common courtesy? It just seems a bit out of line. It took more effort for Jackson to waffle on his endorsement, purposefully, than to simply extend a courtesy to a colleague.
But that's Phil Jackson.
Greatest coach on earth.