Phil Jackson turns 70 years old Thursday, marking a perfect occasion to celebrate the most decorated coach in NBA history.
In his Hall of Fame bio, Jackson is described as an intellectual, spiritualist, maverick, athlete and coach -- in that order. He played 10 years for the New York Knicks, including the 1973 championship season, and served the New Jersey Nets as both a player and assistant coach. Now he's back with the Knicks, trying to resurrect the franchise in an executive capacity.
Jackson never denied that coaching some of the world's greatest players allowed him to collect all those rings. But it's also true that Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Kobe Bryant never won a championship without him.
To commemorate Jackson's 11 NBA championships as a coach, we present 11 things you need to know about Phil Jackson:
1. Jackson was named NBA Coach of the Year only once, in 1995-96 when the Bulls won a record 72 games.
2. After guiding the Albany Patroons to the 1984 CBA championship, Jackson successfully lobbied ownership for a raise -- to $30,000. Jackson now earns in the $12 million range annually as president of the Knicks.
3. Michael Jordan's career record in eight seasons with Phil Jackson as his head coach: 455-130 (.778) in the regular season and 105-37 (.739) in the playoffs. Jordan's career record in seven seasons under other head coaches: 251-236 (.515) in the regular season and 14-23 (.378) in the playoffs.
4. Kobe Bryant's career record in 11 seasons with Phil Jackson as his head coach: 568-269 (.679) in the regular season and 118-62 (.656) in the playoffs. Bryant's career record in eight seasons under other head coaches: 255-188 (.576) in the regular season and 17-23 (.425) in the playoffs.
5. Shaquille O'Neal's career record in five seasons with Phil Jackson as his head coach: 262-92 (.740) in the regular season and 64-28 (.696) in the playoffs. O'Neal's career record in 14 seasons under other head coaches: 557-296 (.653) in the regular season and 65-59 (.524) in the playoffs.
6. Jackson reveled in tweaking fans in opposing cities during his coaching career. A sampling:
On Memphis: "It's like Dresden after the war."
On Sacramento: "Those people are just maybe redneck in some form or fashion."
On Orlando: "If you want a plastic city like Orlando that has warm weather and golf courses, that's fine. But if you want a city that has meat and grist to it and has a culture, Chicago has it."
On San Antonio: "Once you've been there, you've been there enough."
On the first NBA game in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: "Hopefully they've drained the mud out of the building and the termites aren't going to eat the building away by the time we get down there."
7. Jackson was sarcastically dubbed "Big Chief Triangle" by then-Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy in 1996.
8. ESPN columnist Melissa Isaacson, who covered the Bulls in the 1990s, shares this Jackson anecdote: "Phil never missed a New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle when he was coaching the Bulls and had fun with the English language. Once, he yelled at his team, 'This is insidious,' then followed that up with, 'How many of you know what insidious means? I want you to go home and look it up and tell me tomorrow.'"
9. Jackson believes the Bulls -- not the Houston Rockets -- would have won the 1994 and '95 championships, if not for Jordan's absence during most of those two seasons. "Definitely. Without a doubt," Jackson told the Houston Chronicle in 2010. "Clearly, if the Bulls were whole, we would have won. ... When Michael played, we won the championship."
10. Jackson played collegiately at the University of North Dakota under head coach Bill Fitch and assistant Jimmy Rodgers. Both Jackson and Fitch were voted among the top 10 coaches in NBA history by the media when the league celebrated its 50th anniversary. Rodgers would become head coach of the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves before serving as an assistant to Jackson with the Bulls.
11. In his 2013 book, "Eleven Rings," Jackson listed the Lakers' win over the Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals as the most satisfying victory of his career.