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Question of the day: Is Phil Jackson the best coach in NBA history or simply someone who benefited from great players? [Updated]

July 2, 2010 |  9:22 am

Reporters from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.

[Updated at 12:30 p.m.:

Baxter Holmes, Los Angeles Times

The only reason Phil Jackson’s fingers are loaded with rings: He coached some of the greatest players of all time -- Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

Yeah, and meanwhile back on planet Earth ...

Why, oh why, does that load-of-malarkey line get overused on Phil?

Sure, he had the goods, but lots of teams did and still didn’t win. (Here’s looking at you, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley -- even though it was PJ and MJ who kept you titleless.)

And sure, if you took Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton from John Wooden, UCLA probably doesn't have as many banners. Same with taking Bill Russell from Red Auerbach, Derek Jeter from Joe Torre and Tom Brady from Bill Belichick.

But if stars always won, no matter who coached them, the term "upset" wouldn’t exist, the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team would never lose, and teams such as the 2004 Lakers wouldn't get hammered by Detroit even though it put four potential Hall of Famers on the floor -- Kobe, Shaq, Malone and Gary Payton.

Great coaches can get everyone to put their egos and issues aside and put forth their best effort toward the shared goal of winning. It's tough, but Phil makes it look easy.

Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant

It's one of those absolutes ingrained into every New England sports fan -- Ted Williams was the greatest hitter who ever lived, Bobby Orr was the best hockey player to ever lace up the skates, and Red Auerbach is better than any coach in NBA history.

End of discussion, right?

Wrong. Old Red needs to put down his victory cigar and make room for Phil Jackson on his throne. Hard as it may be for Celtics Nation to hear, Red has been eclipsed by the Zen Master.

Forget the argument that Jackson has only won with stars (Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant).

Auerbach's rosters included a Hall of Fame wing (Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, John Havlicek, etc.), so we can say the same things about Red's titles.

Jackson has won titles in an era of free agency, during a time when wealthy stars probably had more power and security than a coach. Sorry, but winning multiple titles in the modern era is more impressive than piecing together a dynasty in the NBA's dark ages.

Auerbach should be credited for pulling off some the greatest one-sided trades in league history. He built title teams in the 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s, securing his place as perhaps the greatest executive in league history.

As a coach, though, he runs second to Jackson.]

Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel

Is Phil Jackson the greatest NBA coach who ever lived? Or has he lived the greatest life of any coach?
Yes and yes -- plus, he also gets the girl (Jeanie Buss).
We never seem to assign a sarcastic asterisk to Red Auerbach, John Wooden, Don Shula, Joe Paterno or Joe Torre, each of whom prospered on the backs of stars.
Deal me a Shaq and Kobe for Phil's hand, and I'll raise you Russell and Cousy for Red's. I'll see your Jordan and Pippen for Phil with Jeter and Rivera for Joe. 
Jackson's 11 titles often come with a disclaimer. What is it that turns us off? Oh yeah ... his smugness.
But if coaching is about collecting stars, Larry Brown wouldn't have lost the '04 Olympics.
The genuis of Jackson is that he can extract the best from the best and manage head cases. I mean, he's won with Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest. Case closed.

Photo: Phil Jackson, right, and Michael Jordan after the Bulls' sixth NBA championship. Credit: Steve Wilson / Reuters

[For the record, 1:02 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly spelled Jeanie Buss' first name.]