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The “Zen Master”

Seated portrait of Phil Jackson holding a basketball

December 23 marks the anniversary of two milestones for Phil Jackson, the Chicago Bulls’ head coach from 1989 to 1998.

Jackson was born in Deer Lodge, Montana, in 1945 and went to high school in North Dakota, where he was a multisport athlete. He played basketball for the University of North Dakota and in 1967 was selected by the New York Knicks in the second round of the NBA draft. He played twelve seasons in the NBA and won championships with the Knicks in 1970 and 1973. In 1980, Jackson retired from playing and started coaching in the Continental Basketball Association and Puerto Rico’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional. Bulls’ head coach Doug Collins hired him as an assistant coach in 1987, and Jackson was promoted to head coach in 1989.

On December 23, 1992, Jackson earned his 200th regular season win as head coach in a record 270 games when Michael Jordan scored fifty-seven points, leading Chicago to a 107‒98 victory over the Washington Bullets. Just five years later, on December 23, 1997, Jackson recorded his 500th career victory with a 94‒89 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The win came in his 682nd NBA game, again faster than any head coach to reach that milestone in NBA history.

That 1997–98 season would be Jackson’s last with the Bulls, where in his nine seasons he led the team to six championships. His regular season coaching record with the Bulls was 545–193. Jackson would go on to coach the Los Angeles Lakers from 1999 to 2004 and 2005 to 2011 and retired with a 70.4% career win-loss percentage, a record eleven total championships, and the most postseason games coached and won. 

Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson interviews with the Sun-Times about the 198990 basketball season at Chicago Stadium, 1800 W. Madison St., Chicago. ST-10000211-0022, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

See more Bulls images from our Chicago Sun-Times collection.

CHM Images

Peruse a selection of digitized prints and photographs at CHM Images, our online portal. Featured galleries include images from our recently acquired Chicago Sun-Times Photography Collection, Raeburn Flerlage’s work documenting the Chicago blues and folk music scene during the 1950s–1970s, and Declan Haun’s photography capturing the American Civil Rights Era.

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