Jeanie Buss Shares Phil Jackson Memories Ahead of “Last Dance” Documentary

Jill Painter Lopez

Lakers' owner Jeanie Buss learned so much from Phil Jackson when he coached the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. 

She’s sharing some of those insights over Instagram during the COVID-19 pandemic, including his controversial decision to hold a Lakers practice on Thanksgiving Day. 

“Back in the early 2000s, I will never forget being irritated when Phil called practice for the Lakers ON THANKSGIVING DAY!!,” Buss wrote on Instagram. “November is a heavy travel month for teams and I felt like the players had earned a day off and suggested to Phil he consider giving them a break. His response was illuminating!

“He explained that he was only bringing them in for a short morning session and that they would have plenty of time to be home with their families for Thanksgiving dinner. He pointed out that forming a team is like forming a family and the players need to spend time together on holidays because 'they are a family too.'"

Jackson won 11 NBA championships while coaching the Chicago Bulls and Lakers. A documentary miniseries about Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Bulls called “Last Dance” will be released on ESPN this month. Jordan and Jackson won six NBA titles together. 

Jackson went on to guide Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal while coaching the Lakers during two stints in 1999-2004 and 2005-2011. Buss did't always understand Jackson, but his tactics clearly worked. 

“While Phil Jackson was head coach of the Lakers, I learned about some of his philosophies of coaching,” Buss wrote on Instagram. “There were some that made more sense than others and for those decisions I didn’t quite understand, I would ask him to explain his thoughts. 

“In these conversations I learned how much thought and purpose Phil puts in every decision, there is nothing impulsive or wasteful in Phil’s planning. One of this many great strengths was his ability to connect with and lead his players and staff. It was because he earned their trust because they knew he was putting them in a position to succeed.” 

Buss said she’ll post another Jackson memory about the books he used to give his players to read in the coming days over Instagram. 

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