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Give Jackson credit for his coaching success

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

June 3
Some have questioned whether Phil Jackson would be a success without the talent he had with the Chicago Bulls and now has with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Phil Jackson
If the Lakers beat the Nets, Phil Jackson will tie Red Auerbach with nine NBA titles as a head coach.
Sure, it helped to have Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and company in the Windy City. Of course, the Lakers have two of the best players in the game in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal (and I feel that sometimes the public and the media don't realize how great they are).

Joe Torre had lots of talent as the New York Yankees won four of five World Series from 1996-2000. Bill Walsh had Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott and company when the San Francisco 49ers were winning four Super Bowls in the '80s through 1990. Red Auerbach had Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones and others when the Boston Celtics were winning championship after championship in the '60s (by the way, when you look up the definition of "NBA," Red's name is listed).

Yes, it helps to have great talent. Ability is one key element in winning.

Phil Jackson deserves a ton of credit for his success. If the Lakers beat the New Jersey Nets and win the NBA title, Jackson will have nine championships to his credit, tying Auerbach. If the Lakers win, Jackson will also pass Pat Riley on the NBA's all-time playoff win list. Auerbach is third -- but remember, there were fewer rounds in the playoffs when he was coaching Boston.

The bottom line is, a coach has to work to mold his team into a winner. He has to get them to play together as a team, to work hard, to compete as a unit, to gel on offense and defense. Jackson has done a fantastic job in getting the Lakers to the winner's circle.

It wasn't easy to come back from a 3-2 deficit against a talented, young Sacramento Kings team that had the home-court advantage. Jackson got his team to believe and he got the supporting cast to come through. Rick Fox, Robert Horry and Derek Fisher made big plays and the Lakers made it to the NBA Finals by winning in overtime Sunday.

Now the Lakers meet the Nets starting Wednesday night. Nets point guard Jason Kidd and company have had a great season. The problem is, the Nets don't have enough answers inside against Shaq. I see the Lakers winning the championship in six games.

Give Jackson his due as a coach who has been a consummate leader -- he gets his players to believe in the team concept. And now the Lakers have a shot at their third straight ring.

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