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Dakota Datebook

Phil Jackson, Part 2

Yesterday, we began the story of Phil Jackson, who grew up in Williston, went to UND, and became a coach in the NBA. He began by leading the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships in nine years.

After that, Jackson took a year off, during which he studied at a Zen Buddhist monastery. In some ways, this hearkened back to a childhood steeped in spirituality. Growing up the son of two fundamentalist ministers, Jackson’s home-life in Williston allowed for no TV, drinking, smoking, dancing, movie-going or unnecessary luxuries.

During the late ‘60s, Jackson had studied religion, philosophy and psychology at UND, and it reportedly wasn’t until he played for the New York Knicks that he grew his hair out, smoked, drank, dated and rode motorcycles. His 1975 memoir, “Maverick,” was a far cry from the book he wrote 20 years later, which examined basketball and his early years with Chicago. It was titled, “Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior.”

Jackson has espoused what he calls “Zen Christianity,” mixed with Lakota beliefs, in which victors share trophies of war while maintaining respect for their opposition.

In an LA Times article, David Ferrel wrote, “He meditates. He studies the teachings of Eastern religions and Native American cultures. He sounds a call to team meetings by chanting and drumming, and waves smoke in the air to dispel unwanted spirits. Even after hard losses, Jackson projects an air of calm – a level gaze and a steady baritone voice that candidly assesses his team’s failings.

After his year away from coaching, Jackson took the job of head coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. He led the team for 11 seasons, making the playoffs every year and winning 5 championships. He holds the NBA record for championships as a coach and is the fastest coach in NBA history to reach 900 wins. 

In 1992, after his first two championships with the Bulls, Jackson was honored by the state of North Dakota and Governor George Sinner with the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award. And in 2007, Jackson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

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