Phil Jackson, the legendary former NBA coach who won a record-setting 11 championships, sat down with music producer Rick Rubin on the latter's new podcast "Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin" for a long-ranging conversation.
The interview covered various topics, including Jackson's coaching style, key lessons he learned throughout his career, and his diverse religious upbringing.
It's well-known Jackson's coaching style is inspired by Zen philosophy. He's considered one of the greatest coaches of all time, known for his emphasis on teamwork, ability to manage star players and egos, and transformational coaching style.
To Rubin, Jackson compared basketball to a jazz quintet, where players take turns being the lead or background, and instructed his players never to hold the ball more than a two-count rhythm to maintain spacing and timing.
One of Jackson's critical lessons for coaching is to set the standard for being on time, doing everything as a team, and empowering players to provide insights and offer suggestions. To minimize distractions, he emphasized being an effective buffer between the group and everyone else, including management and the media.
Jackson also discussed the importance of finding the proper challenge to provoke motivation, citing an example of how he motivated Shaquille O'Neal to work on his cardio by challenging him to play every minute of every game.
As so many of his former players have noted, Jackson had many ways of attempting to provide a spark for his team, such as giving players a book that matched their personalities during long road trips.
Regarding his religious upbringing, Jackson had diverse exposure to religions. His parents were ministers, and his mother converted from the Mennonite faith to Lutheran. His father also built churches for the Assemblies of God denomination in Montana. Jackson described his upbringing as strict, with no dancing in their house, but his mother welcomed debate.
Today, Jackson considers himself a spiritual searcher instead of a devoted follower of a religion. He meditates instead of praying and believes that everyone is looking for the same thing, regardless of the stream they choose to get there.
Jackson and Rubin described feeling the flow vicariously through their players and musicians, similar to a pastor and their congregation.
The concept of flow, according to Jackson, is the spiritual connection to being in the moment, which makes religion, sports, and music a unifying and joyous experience. When you are so deep in the moment, you can almost predict the next moment and only experience flow, not capture it.
Some of the more fascinating aspects of the interview happened when Jackson delved into the equation for a game-winning shot, how the three-point line changed the NBA, old-school NBA loopholes, and why Michael Jordan played baseball.
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