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Lakers Moments: Phil Jackson heads west

April 5, 2011 |  3:00 pm

Click here to read more about Phil Jackson. The beginning of a beautiful relationship: New Lakers head coach Phil Jackson on the bench during an exhibition game against the Golden State Warriors at the Forum on Oct. 21, 1999.

It was the 1998-99 season and the Lakers had spectacular players in Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. They also had a number of spectacular playoff failures. What was a franchise to do?

Bring in a one-time hippie, a noted philosopher and a coach known for doing things the unconventional way, like burning incense in the locker room and having his players meditate.

“I think in looking at this basketball team,” Jackson said in June of 1999 after being hired as coach of the Lakers, “this is a team that is talented, it’s young, it’s on the verge.”

And with Jackson on the bench, the Lakers moved from postseason busts to NBA champions. Not one, not twice, but five times in the last 11 seasons.

Whether Jackson is the best coach in NBA history can be debated, but there is no arguing that he is the most successful one. In 19 seasons as a coach (nine with the Chicago Bulls, 10 with the Lakers), he has won 11 championships, two more than Red Auerbach won with the Boston Celtics. His teams have never missed the playoffs and he has the highest winning percentage in the regular season (.705) and postseason (.697).

Read more about Phil Jackson and his 11 years with Los Angeles in All Things Lakers, the L.A. Times’ interactive database of all things purple and gold.

-- Hans Tesselaar and Sarah Ardalani

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times