Q&A: Phil Jackson Part 2

Posted by Unknown on Thursday, September 25, 2014 with No comments
Courtesy of Steve Serby

Q: What have you learned about Knicks owner James Dolan that you didn’t know?
A: I think his passion for music. When I first heard that he had a group and that he’s interested in music, it was kinda like a passing fancy. But it’s more than just a hobby for him.
Q: And how about letting you do what you do? No meddling.
A: Well, he’s more than willing to step back, and I think that that’s a relief for him. I know he’ll be intrigued, and when the season starts, he’ll be present. But we’re prepared. We’re prepared for this season and I think he understands that.
Q: Do you have any fear of failure? Does that drive you in any way?
A: No, it doesn’t. All my life, winning and losing is a fear of failure in losing. So there’s always that part that motivates a player, the distaste that comes from losing. But … I don’t see us losing. I don’t see us being failures. I see us being successes here, and that’s comforting.
Q: Why do you see yourself being successes here?
A: I think we’re putting the things in the right place. I see the compliance in our players, I see their dedication. I see the unity in our coaching staff, and our communication between the coaching staff and the players. It bodes well.
Q: How do you feel about being called “The Savior”?
A: Who’s calling me The Savior?
Q: Knicks fans…
A: OK.
Q: Some media members…Is that flattering, or is it stupid?
A; It’s neither. It’s a hope, and people are expressing hope. I have gratitude, and I graciously accept that as part of my definition of the job.
Q: In the five or so months you’ve been on the job, what’s been something you didn’t expect?
A: Paperwork (smile). Corporate paperwork, it’s actually computer work.
Q: What won’t you tolerate?
A: There’s a lot I won’t tolerate. We don’t want people to be late, and this is a city for example where people are late because they can’t avoid being late because of traffic, so we have to understand how and what and the parameters of lateness. There’s certain limitations of lateness that’s OK and others that’s not, and I learned that from Red [Holzman, former Knicks coach].
All these things that we have as rules all pertain to our relationship to other people. And so, in that regard, all our rules are easily managed with teams who are happy winning and are respectful to their teammates and the organization…and the game.
Q: Can you tell me what some of those rules are?
A: Don’t be late…I have rules like, you come to the center court in a circle, we start our practices there, you show up, you have your jewelry off, your uniform on, your shoes tied, and that detail shows me that you’re prepared and ready to go.
And so there’s a little informal inspection that goes through in the circle, but it’s just the beginning of what becomes the details about the nail that was lost.
Q: How do you feel being called the Zen Master?
A: There are no Zen Masters, there are only Zen. You cannot master Zen.
Q: Biggest single lesson you learned from Holzman?
A: Don’t get too high, don’t get too low. The middle path is the way.
Q: Former assistant Tex Winter?
A: Tex Winter always said, “Don’t make mountains our of molehills when things go wrong.” He was a guy that was quite similar to Red in his response to … emotional reaction to wins and losses.
Q: Who are coaches in other sports you admire?
A: I grew up a Yankee fan, I loved Casey Stengel.
Q: You were a Yankees fan in Montana?
A: Yeah…Mickey Mantle, 1954-55, ’55-56…that whole 8-, 9-, 10-year-old boy thing that guys have.
Q: Why did you admire Stengel?
A: We attribute everything to Yogi Berra, but Casey had a lot of aphorisms that were funny, but I think he’s a much deeper person than he showed, being a dentist…I think that he had a deeper side to him than appeared all the time in the sports review and pages that made him a remarkable manager of people.
Q: Other coaches?
A: You have to admire guys that get their players to play with such passion. Our whole job as coaches is to get players to not only understand the intricacies of the game but to play with this abandon, this wild abandon…[Former Princeton coach] Pete Carril.
I used to admire the way he energizes his teams…[Bill] Parcells…[Bill] Belichick, in football, those guys are terrific.
In baseball, Sparky Anderson was a guy from out in the Midwest. I liked Sparky when he did some of his things that he did. … But we always go back to Vince Lombardi because he had such an impression on our society growing up, and having that Green Bay team, and the unity and the dedication they had.
Q: You seem like the polar opposite of Vince Lombardi.
A: I am…I used something that Vince Lombardi used on a practice court. One of my coaches, Johnny Bach, was at Fordham when Vince Lombardi was coaching at Fordham.
He was a freshman basketball coach, and he lined all his players up on the end line, and he stood and faced them as I would at every training camp, and he said to them: “God has ordained me to coach you.
All those that want to follow my coaching, step forward on this line as an indication of your dedication to what we’re going to do.”
Q: You’ve used that, too.
A: I used it all the time (smile).
Q: Have you used it yet with this team?
A: I’m not on the floor coaching this team. I would imagine that at some point [coach Derek Fisher] is gonna pull that out.
I don’t want him to have to read it in this paper (chuckle) to pull it out, but it was something that told you about, “OK, I’m divorcing myself from my personality for a while to become coach.
And you are submitting your ego and your personal desires to follow this coaching aspect that we’re gonna go through this coach and player relationship.” So I admire guys who can get that done.
Q: Players in other sports you admire?
A: I admire Peyton Manning because of his headiness, his ability to play under control, his understanding of the game, his dedication to the sport…We’ve all watched Derek [Jeter], I’m sure people are just relishing in the last few games they’re getting to watch him play, but he’s had a wonderful, remarkable career…Kobe Bryant obviously is in my sport, but there’s nobody that’s more dedicated to conditioning and preparation and self-control and…absorbing the pain of all that workout than Kobe Bryant.
Q: Loudest you ever heard the Garden?
A: I’ve heard the Garden so loud so many times. But the most recent time I can remember was maybe a Mother’s Day playoff in like ’96, maybe ’97 even, [the Bulls] were playing the Knicks.
It was a really close game, and we’re coming down the end, I called a timeout, it might have been a one-point game, or two-point game in our favor.
They were doubling Michael, [Knicks forward Charles] Oakley was leaving Dennis Rodman, so I had to tell Dennis that he had to become the thread.
So he set up [Bulls center] Bill Wennington for a little jumper on the baseline that sealed the victory. But during that timeout, I turned to my coaching staff and I said, “You feel this place? This floor is moving up and down.”
There’s something about that “Dee-fense” chant that was going on there back in the day that was pretty mind-numbing for opponents coming in to play.
Q: You’ve given your players books to read over the years, have you done that here with any of your players or coaches here?
A: I’ll get around to that.
Q: What particular books?
A: I won’t disclose that right now.
Q: Do you have favorite books?
A: I have a list of about 120 books I’ve given out to players. I sometimes make it available if people ask for ’em. So if you really want it, I could send it to you via the email…“Sacred Hoops”…“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” for people that want a heady read.
Or the places you’ll go for our foreign players that don’t have a grasp of the English language but have a rudiment understanding of English.
Q: Your message to Knicks fans?
A: To all groups, particularly religious groups, I’m from a family of ministers. We always say, “We solicit your prayers. We solicit your following and your support.” And we’ll do everything to earn that support that we can do.
Q: Did you hang out with Joe Namath way back when?
A: I’ve been with Joe a couple of times, but no, I didn’t hang out with him.
Q: What do you remember about Joe?
A: He was a good bar guy, funny at the bar. He was an easygoing guy. He was really quite a friendly guy, not full of himself at all. I liked him a lot.
Q: How about Muhammad Ali?
A: I’ve been in the same room with him, but it’s hard to get in the same room with Muhammad. He had an awful big ego (smile).
Q: Did you go to the Ali-[Joe] Frazier fight?
A: Both of them [at the Garden], yeah.
Q: What was the atmosphere like at the first one?
A: I think I saw three or four heart attacks, or guys that collapsed in the process, had to be carried out. I don’t know if it was the drinking, the partying or the atmosphere that was so tense…It was pretty intense.
Q: What was Clyde Frazier like as a roommate?
A: You know, he had a dictionary. He used to read the damn dictionary. We had exceptional college coaches, both of us. And we were astounded, amazed, at the NBA game at that time.
It was very, “OK, we’re gonna roll the ball out” type of game. We’ll have a screen roll over here, we’ll do this post-up over there, put two young guys that can play defense out there.”
Q: Describe Willis Reed.
A: He was the captain. He had a presence about him. He always was there to clean stuff up, carry on the mission of the day, protect his teammates, and give an effort.
Q: Bill Bradley.
A: I’ve never seen a guy hyped quite as much as Bill was. Unfortunately, it was tremendous amount of pressure, but he handled it great. And he established himself as a leader, even though he couldn’t lead on the court per se by his play — his energy, his mindfulness, his ability to think the game and to get through to all the personalities was really special.
Q: Dave DeBusschere.
A: Buffalo, Big Buff, he was a defensive guy. He had a great shot, he’d been a coach, and he really solidified our team, he made us a unit.
Q: Dick Barnett.
A: Dickie was kinda like the elder statesman. And also the funny guy, who liked to hold court, talk, been around and seen it all in basketball. Even though he was coming off an Achilles tendon injury when I showed up, he still had a remarkable influence on our team.
Q: Clyde as a player.
A: He was a cat-like player. He was quick as a wink, and very cool.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy and Alexander the Great — I think he was one of the great coaches, and I’d like to find out how he motivated that…moving army over those years that he conquered the world.
Q: What one singer or band would you want to watch if the world was about to end in 24 hours?
A: I was listening to [Sergei] Rachmaninoff this morning, I loved his stuff. I’d probably pick a guy like him. He was a great performer, and also a terrific composer…Do you know Rachmaninoff was a big guy?
His span — I played piano when I was a kid — and a lot of the stuff he does, it’s an octave-and-a-half. His ability to manipulate the piano completely changed the whole form of what we have for piano recitals.
Q: “The Mystic Warrior.”
A: It was a television series. It was a book to start with, I read the book. That wasn’t the name of the book [“Hanta Yo” by Ruth Beebe Hill]. It was kind of an in-depth book, it was fictionalized, but yet it was kind of a portrayal in many ways of Crazy Horse.
I had been a member of the Lakota Indian tribe for 20 years when this book came out, and then they made in to a three- or four-part series on television, and I was able to tape it and use those tapes…there’s a situation where there’s a tribal gathering, and friendship clans getting together. It’s really about understanding this way of behaving where the enemy is kinda respected.
In many ways, the animals are thanked for giving their life. There’s a certain respect for the earth. There’s a great respect for other mankind.
Even though you may have him as your enemy, your role is increased and your spiritual nature is increased by the combat, where the precision that you have to exude to overcome your enemy, and so your enemy is respected in many ways.
And this is kind of a theme that I felt I had to use to play against this Detroit Pistons team that was always challenging, always physically trying to outmuscle you or intimidate you.
It was about not being intimidated, and it’s about understanding that raw power, brute force against this is not the way to go, the way to go was to use cunning and speed. So I used this kind of the model for this team.
Q: The Washington Redskins name change?
A: I put it out there on Twitter about a year ago, maybe. Got a lot hate and stuff back from Redskin fans. But it’s been on my mind for a long time and I’ve been talking about it for years.
Simply because my college, the Fighting Sioux, had to change their name. Minnesota wouldn’t play against the hockey team. The NCAA had ruled that they had a five-year period of time in which to find a new name.
So I went back to my college, I received an honorary doctor’s degree about five years ago, and in my talk I talked about changes, and how we have to make these changes, even though having been a part of the Lakota Sioux Nation, as kind of an adopted member — I brought Willis out there, I brought Bill Bradley out there, Neal Walk, Bill Walton, guys who come out there and did basketball camps. Anyway, a lot of ’em were ambivalent about it.
Sioux isn’t their real name, it’s Lakota. So Sioux means snake, and that’s a name that their enemies gave them, so that was kind of a misnomer.
But when it came apparent to me that some people did not like it, that’s when I talked about it in my talk to the college.
That we have to make the changes, because what’s offensive to some people, is not ours to decide. That we’re gonna force it on you anyway.
It was changed anyway — Flickertale was the name of the team back until like ’40 or something like that, and they changed it to Fighting Sioux.
But the process came about and the people asked me about other names. Of course, the Seminoles have been allowed to keep their name because the Seminoles of Florida embrace it, so the NCAA’s looked the other way.
But Redskins is a derogatory name. Braves isn’t, that’s not a derogatory name. But the Redskins is. It’s like calling someone Blackskins or Whitey, or whatever.
So this has been an issue for some time with me and I haven’t worn it on my sleeve. The resistance that football has about it is kind of strange in some ways.
It’s all being brought out to a greater degree now that the NFL’s not looked upon as they’re running the show, or they’ve got all the answers or whatever.
I think it’s gonna bring negative impact towards this Washington team, and I can’t understand why you want to have a negative feeling towards your team. You want to have positive things about your team.