Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On the Coffee Table: Phil Jackson

Title: Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success
Authors: Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty
via Amazon
Do you remember Suze?  She of the now defunct Subliminal Coffee blog?  Well, I sought out this book on her recommendation and finally got around to reading it.

Phil Jackson is the most successful coach in the history of American professional team sports.  Between Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls and Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers, his basketball teams won 11 NBA championships.  Some have belittled Jackson's own contributions to those star-laden squads.  But anyone who follows sports for any length of time knows that it takes more than assembling talent to win titles.  Those who worked with him and played for him admire his ability to manage egos and convince superstars to buy into a team concept.

Eleven Rings got a lot of press when it came out in 2013 as a different kind of sports book.  After all, Jackson was a different kind of coach, his style of leadership derived from his own, broad-ranging spiritual explorations, particularly Zen Buddhism.  He teaches his players meditation.  His famed Triangle Offense is designed to allow creativity rather than depending on rigid set plays.  He believes that a team's success or failure ultimately depends on players' relationships with one another, and also their coaches.  Eleven Rings documents all of this and as a teacher, I find Jackson's insights valuable.

But the book is still mostly basketball.  I don't know if one would enjoy the book much if one didn't like basketball.  I personally love the game but I don't follow the NBA, preferring the college game.  Interestingly, Jackson sees the same problem with the league that I do.  Since the Magic-Bird-Jordan days of the '80s, the NBA has valued individual players over teams and marketed itself accordingly.  As a result, the very rules of the game have evolved to spotlight the superstars and teams employ their tactics in order to take full advantage.  It's been years since I followed the league closely, really not since the mid '90s.  But I know the players well enough to enjoy a glimpse into their world.  I don't know if a non-fan would care.

Thanks for the recommendation, Suze, wherever you are!


10 comments:

  1. LIke you, I'm not much into professional basketball, but being from NC, college ball reigns. Years ago, I read his book "Sacred Hoops" where he discusses his philosophy of coaching a lot of Zen and Native American spirituality was added in), At the time, I thought it was a good book. Maybe I need to go back and review it.

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    1. I didn't mean to imply that Eleven Rings is not a good book. It's very good. But as much as I enjoy sports books, I do read them with one eye to whether or not my wife would enjoy it. Every once in a while, I find one I think would work, either because it's so well written or because there are other points of interest beyond sport. Eleven Rings has a lot of interesting material regarding leadership but still, most of it is basketball.

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  2. Interesting. I have really fallen off the basketball bandwagon, but he's definitely got something mystical that made it all work. Not just sayin' that because I'm a Chicago gal. I will admit to a little gratitude that my wedding day didn't fall in one of those six seasons the Bulls were in the Finals. My father would have insisted on a TV at the reception... ;)

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    1. Chicago ties might be enough for my wife, too, but I think not in the end.

      Our daughter was born during the US Open tennis tournament, the year Andy Roddick won. We watched the finals in the maternity ward. I suggested we name her Paradorn after my favorite player at the time. Thankfully, my wife didn't take me very seriously.

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    2. Always a difficult call. My eldest was born just in time for a re-run of Seinfeld. We were vaguely tempted to go with "Seven;" I think he's happy we did not. ;)

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    3. Ha! The games new parents play...

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  3. Also tired of the superstar players, who eat up all the attention and other players go hungry.

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    1. The supporting cast is well paid for the trouble. But the team game of basketball is so beautiful when it's played well. All those NBA isolation plays get old fast.

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  4. I was living in California during the Kobe years. When I didn't know what to give as gifts Basketball tickets were alway a good choice. I liked Phil Jackson. He was a coach and seemed to control the players unlike today when the "stars" seem to do whatever they want.
    Weird side note: the surgeon that worked on the Lakers knees worked on my left knee. I have a Lakers knee !

    cheers, parsnip and thehamish

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    1. Even with my basketball snobbery, I would never turn up my nose at free tickets! However, I myself would be more likely to give someone tickets to a UCLA game.

      Love the knee story.

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