Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Struggles Of Erik Spoelstra Illustrates Brilliance Of Phil Jackson


It has long been the most ignorant opinion in all of hoops and potentially in all of sports. You’ve heard it plenty of times. Maybe you’ve even been foolish enough to say it. “Phil Jackson wins because he coaches the best talent.”

Really? Have you been paying attention to the hack job Erik Spoelstra has been doing in South Beach?

Do you still honestly believe all PJ ever did was roll out the balls at practice and whistle at Scottie while flashing triangle shapes with his fingers during games?

If so then you’re more ignorant to how the game is coached on the professional level than LeBron James is to how you’re supposed to go about being a franchise player.

People act as if the Chicago Bulls were Jordan-less before Jackson’s arrival. As if Jordan wasn’t ever coached by Doug Collins. The same fools act as if Kobe and Shaq weren’t coached by Del Harris who – by the way – had a better roster from top to bottom than Jackson ever did in Los Angeles.

Again I defer to the overwhelmed video coordinator running the show in Miami as evidence that winning NBA titles as a coach isn’t completely about the players on the court. As the coach you’ve got to have a finger on the pulse of your team at all times knowing exactly what buttons to push and when. You’ve got to create a plan of attack that puts your best talent in the best position possible to contribute. You’ve also got to make adjustments on the fly during the most critical moments in any given game.

By all accounts Jackson was a master of all the above and then some. Now nobody is saying PJ could have fallen out of a boat and walked home without getting wet. Dude made his fare share of mistakes. But his failures were overshadowed by an unrivaled collecting of Larry O’Briens.

Spoelstra will be lucky to get another job coaching top tier talent after this season much less be handed the keys to a title team. He inherited the supposed best team money can buy and look at the results. Each night when the stakes are raised Spoelstra’s team shrinks. The Heat play with less heart than JaMarcus Russell and put up a fight only Keith Kloss would respect.

Not to say that every team Jackson coached always played with the heart of a champion. His last team certainly didn’t. But at least dude knew what it took to get a group of paid professionals on the same page and pushing for the same cause.

Spoelstra couldn’t organize a team meal. He’s lucky not have not been Stan Van’d last season. Of course after Miami’s next playoff flop he’s certain to get Stan Van’d in the pink slip way instead of the Pat Riley replacement kind of way.

About the only amazing feat Spoelstra’s Heat has accomplished is getting the city of L.A. to actually root for the C’s. Now that’s not something to be proud of but it certainly will make for a nice running joke when ESPN hires Spoelstra as a commentator.

So the next time someone tries to run the same tired Phil Jackson smack feel free to play the Spoelstra card. Of course since those backing the Heat are LeBron apologists I’m sure they’ll have a long list of excuses as to why their head coach couldn’t flip the PJ switch. Those of us that know the game understand that having the talent is only half the battle. Having great coaching is what makes great players legendary.

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Tags: Doug Collins Erik Spoelstra Kobe Lebron James Michael Jordan Pat Riley Phil Jackson Scottie Pippen Shaquille O'neal

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