Jackson is known for his use of Tex Winter's triangle offense as well as a holistic approach to coaching that is influenced by Eastern philosophy, earning him the nickname "Zen Master". Jackson cites Robert Pirsig's book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as one of the major guiding forces in his life. He also applies Native American spiritual practices as documented in his book Sacred Hoops. He is the author of several candid books about his teams and his basketball strategies. Jackson is also a recipient of the state of North Dakota's Roughrider Award. In 2007 Jackson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 1996, as part of celebrations for the National Basketball Association's 50th anniversary, Jackson was named one of the 10 greatest coaches in league history.
Early yearsJackson was born September 17, 1945 in Deer Lodge, Montana. Both of his parents, Charles and Elisabeth Funk  Jackson, were Assemblies of God ministers. Elisabeth came from a long line of Mennonites before her conversion to the Assemblies of God. In the churches that they served, his father generally preached on Sunday mornings and his mother on Sunday evenings. Eventually, his father became a ministerial supervisor. Phil, his two brothers, and his half-sister grew up in a remote area of Montana in an austere environment, in which no dancing or television was allowed. Jackson did not see his first movie until he was a senior in high school, and went to a dance for the first time in college. Growing up, he assumed he would become a minister.
Jackson attended high school in Williston, North Dakota where he played varsity basketball and led the team to two state titles. He also played football, was a pitcher on the baseball team, and threw the discus in track and field competitions. The high school now has a sports complex named after him. His brother Chuck speculated years later that the three Jackson sons threw themselves passionately into athletics because it was the only time they were allowed to do what other children were doing. Jackson attracted the attention of several baseball scouts. Their notes found their way to future NBA coach Bill Fitch, who had previously coached baseball, and had been doing some scouting for the Atlanta Braves. Fitch took over as head basketball coach at the University of North Dakota in the spring of 1962, during Jackson's junior year of high school.
Over dinner and a glass of wine, Bill Fitch successfully recruited Jackson to UND, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. Jackson did well there, helping the Fighting Sioux to third- and fourth-place finishes in the NCAA Division II tournament in his sophomore and junior years (1965 and 1966). Both years, they were beaten by Southern Illinois. Jackson's future Knicks teammate Walt Frazier was the Salukis' biggest star, but the two only faced off in 1965, as Frazier was academically ineligible in 1966.
NBA playing careerIn 1967, Jackson was drafted in the second round by the New York Knicks. While he was a good all-around athlete, with unusually long arms, he was limited offensively and compensated with intelligence and hard work on defense. Jackson eventually established himself as a fan favorite and one of the NBA's leading substitutes. He was a top reserve on the Knicks team that won the NBA title in 1973. Jackson missed being part of New York's 1970 championship season due to spinal fusion surgery; however, he authored a book entitled "Take It All," a photo diary of the Knicks' 1970 Championship run.
Soon after the 1973 title, several key starters retired, creating an opening for Jackson in the starting lineup. In the 1974-75 NBA season, Jackson and the Milwaukee Bucks' Bob Dandridge shared the lead for total personal fouls, with 330 each. Jackson lived in Leonia, New Jersey during this time. After going across the Hudson in 1978 to play two seasons for the New Jersey Nets, he retired from play in 1980.
CoachingIn the following years, he mainly coached in lower-level professional leagues, notably the Continental Basketball Association and Puerto Rico's National Superior Basketball (BSN). While in the CBA, he won his first coaching championship, leading the Albany Patroons to their first CBA title in 1984. In Puerto Rico, he coached the Piratas de Quebradillas (1984 and 1987) and the Gallitos de Isabela (1984–1986), both teams with great tradition in the league. He regularly sought an NBA job, but was invariably turned down. He had acquired a reputation for being sympathetic to the counterculture during his playing years, which may have scared off potential NBA employers. 
Jackson was hired as assistant coach, under Doug Collins, for the Bulls in 1987, and promoted to head coach in 1989. It was around this time that he met Tex Winter and became a devotee of Winter's triangle offense. Over 9 seasons, Jackson coached the Bulls to 6 championships in impressive fashion, twice winning three straight championships over separate three year periods. The "three-peat" was the first since the Boston Celtics won eight titles in a row from 1959 through 1966.
Jackson and the Bulls made the playoffs every year, and failed to win the title only three times. Michael Jordan's first retirement after the 1993 season marked the end of the first "three-peat," and although Jordan returned just before the 1995 playoffs, it was not enough to prevent a playoff exit to the Orlando Magic.
Despite the Bulls' success, tension between Jackson and Bulls general manager Jerry Krause grew. Some believed that Krause felt under-recognized for building a championship team and believed that Jackson was indebted to him for giving him his first NBA coaching job. In the summer of 1997, Jackson was not invited to the wedding of Krause's stepdaughter, although all of the Bulls' assistant coaches were, as was Tim Floyd, then head coach at Iowa State, Jackson's eventual successor. After contentious negotiations, Jackson was signed for the 1997–98 season only. Krause announced the signing by emphasizing that Jackson would not be rehired even if the Bulls won the 1997–98 title. Jackson then told Krause that he seemed to be rooting for the other side, to which Krause responded, "I don't care if it's 82-and-0 this year, you're gone." Krause publicly portrayed Jackson as a two-faced character who had very little regard for his assistant coaches. At the height of the controversy in the spring of 1998, one of Krause's staff went to press row in Chicago's United Center to explain to a reporter the insidious nature of Jackson's ego.
After the Bulls' final title of the Jordan era in 1998, Jackson left the team vowing never to coach again. However, after taking a year off, he decided to give it another chance with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999.
Los Angeles Lakers
With the talented superstar duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, the strong supporting cast of Glen Rice, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Devean George, A. C. Green, Robert Horry, and Brian Shaw, and the assistance of former Bulls Horace Grant, Ron Harper, and John Salley, Jackson would lead the Lakers to two additional titles in 2001 and 2002, against the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, adding up to his third three-peat as head coach. The main serious challenge the Lakers faced was from their conference rival, the Sacramento Kings.
However, injuries, weak bench play, and full-blown public tension between Bryant and O'Neal eventually slowed the team down, and they were beaten in the second round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. Afterward, Jackson clashed frequently with Bryant. While remarkably efficient in Jackson's "triangle offense", Bryant had a personal distaste for Jackson's brand of basketball and subsequently called it "boring." In games, Bryant would often disregard the set offense completely to experiment with his own one-on-one moves, incensing the normally calm Jackson. Bryant managed to test Jackson's patience enough that the "Zen Master" even demanded that Bryant be traded, although Laker management rejected the request.
Prior to the 2003–04 season, the Lakers signed NBA star veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who had been franchise players for the Utah Jazz and the Seattle SuperSonics, respectively, leading to predictions by some that the team would finish with the best record in NBA history. But from the first day of training camp, the Lakers were beset by distractions. Bryant's trial for alleged sexual assault, continued public sniping between O'Neal and Bryant, and repeated disputes between Jackson and Bryant all affected the team during the season. Despite these distractions, the Lakers beat the defending champion Spurs en route to advancing to the 2004 NBA Finals and were heavy favorites to regain the title. However, they were stunned by the Detroit Pistons, who used their strong defense to dominate the Lakers, winning the title four games to one. This marked the first time in 10 attempts as head coach that Jackson had lost in the NBA Finals.
On June 18, 2004, three days after the loss to the Pistons, the Lakers announced that Jackson would leave his position as Lakers coach. Jackson was seeking to double his salary from $6 million to $12 million on his expiring contract. He had a contract offer outstanding from the Lakers, but he had not acted on it. Winter said Jackson announced at the All-Star break that he would not want to return to the Lakers if Bryant returned. Many fans attributed Jackson's departure directly to the wishes of Bryant, as Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss reportedly sided with Bryant. Jackson, Bryant and Buss all denied that Bryant had made any explicit demand regarding Jackson. However, O'Neal, upon hearing General Manager Mitch Kupchak's announcement of the team's willingness to trade O'Neal and its intention to keep Bryant, indicated that he felt the franchise was indeed pandering to Bryant's wishes with the departure of Jackson. O'Neal's trade to the Miami Heat was the end of the "Trifecta" that had led the Lakers to three championship titles.
That fall, Jackson released The Last Season, a book which describes his point of view of the tensions that surrounded the 2003–04 Lakers team. The book was pointedly critical of Kobe Bryant; at one point, Jackson called Bryant "uncoachable."
Without Jackson and O'Neal the Lakers were forced to become a faster paced team on the court. Though they achieved some success in the first half of the season, injuries to several players including stars Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom forced the team out of contention, going 34–48 in 2004–05 and missing the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Rudy Tomjanovich, Jackson's successor as coach, resigned midway through the season after coaching just 41 games, citing health issues not relating to his past bout with bladder cancer, which immediately led to speculation that the Lakers might bring Jackson back.
On June 15, 2005, the Lakers rehired Jackson. Jackson took a Laker squad that was mediocre, aside from Bryant, and led them to a seventh-seed playoff berth. Once again promoting the notion of selfless team play embodied by the triangle offense, the team achieved substantial results, especially in the last month of the season. Jackson also worked seamlessly with Bryant, who had earlier shown his desire to bring back Jackson to the bench. Bryant's regular-season performance won him the league scoring title and made him a finalist in MVP voting. However, the Lakers faced a tough 2006 first-round matchup against the second-seeded Phoenix Suns, who were led by eventual MVP winner Steve Nash. It was the first time that Jackson's team had failed to reach the second round of the playoffs. The Lakers jumped out to a 3–1 lead following a dramatic last second shot by Bryant in overtime to win game four, but the Suns recovered to win the last three and take the series.
On January 7, 2007, Jackson won his 900th game, currently placing him 9th on the all-time win list for NBA coaches. With this win, Jackson became the fastest to reach 900 career wins, doing so in only 1,264 games and beating Pat Riley's previous record of 900 in 1,278 games.
On December 12, 2007, after announcing he would return to his position as coach just a few days prior, Jackson inked a 2-year contract extension to continue his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers through the end of the 2009–2010 season.
During the 2007–08 season, the Lakers were able to obtain Pau Gasol in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. With another star to pair with Bryant, Jackson coached the Lakers to an appearance in the 2008 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. Boston went on to win the series 4–2, in the process handing Jackson and the Lakers their worst playoff loss ever in Game 6, a 39 point defeat. It was only the 2nd time in 11 appearances that Jackson had lost an NBA Finals.
On December 25, 2008, Jackson became the sixth coach to win 1,000 games, with the Lakers defeating the Celtics in their first matchup since the last year's finals. He was the fastest to win 1,000 games, surpassing Pat Riley, who had taken 11 more games than Jackson.
Jackson again coached the Lakers to the NBA Finals in 2009, defeating the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets in the process. In the Finals, the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic 4–1, clinching Jackson's 10th NBA championship as head coach and surpassing the record for most championships won by a head coach previously held by Red Auerbach.
On February 3, 2010, Jackson recorded his 534th win as Lakers head coach, surpassing Pat Riley to become the most successful coach in franchise history. The Lakers would go on to a fifth consecutive playoff berth in 2010. They defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, and Phoenix Suns in the playoffs before defeating the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals, earning Jackson his eleventh NBA championship as head coach and his fifth with the Lakers. He tied original Lakers head coach John Kundla's record for most championships won by a head coach in franchise history.
On July 1, 2010, Jackson, after giving it tremendous thought and consulting with his doctors over health concerns, announced that he would return to coach the Lakers for the 2010–11 season.
On August 2, 2010, Jackson signed a new contract with the Lakers to return for what he mentioned was "his last stand", meaning the 2010–11 season would be his last. Terms of the contract were not given. In January 2011, he reiterated that it would be his final season, explaining that in the past there was the possibility that maybe he would reconsider. "This year, there's no maybe," said Jackson.
Motivational techniquesAlong with being called the "Zen Master," Jackson is known as the master of mind games.
In the 2001 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Jackson had Tyronn Lue, a player on the Lakers team who was comparable in size and height to Sixers star Allen Iverson, wear a sock on his arm during Lakers practice to simulate Iverson's use of a compression arm sleeve as part of his regular gametime attire. Philadelphia media considered this to be a mind game tactic of Jackson's, but the main idea was to simulate what a game against Iverson is like, right down to the tattoos and cornrows (which Lue also had).
Head coaching recordJackson has had a winning record every year as a head coach, and currently has the highest winning percentage of any Hall of Fame coach. Along with his NBA-record eleven championships, he is the only coach to win at least ten championships in any of North America's major professional sports.
Personal lifeJackson is divorced with five children and seven grandchildren. Jackson has been dating Jeanie Buss, the daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, since 2001. Jackson spends time vacationing in his home state of Montana.
Books by Phil Jackson
- Take It All!. 1970. ISBN 10 0020291906.
- Maverick. 1975. ISBN 0-87223-439-8.
- Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior. 1995. ISBN 0-7868-6206-8.
- More than a Game. 2001. ISBN 1-58322-060-7.
- The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul. 2004. ISBN 1-59420-035-1.
- The Los Angeles Lakers: 50 Amazing Years in the City of Angels (Foreword by Phil Jackson). 2009. ISBN 0-98232-420-0.
- Journey to the Ring: Behind the Scenes with the 2010 NBA Champion Lakers. 2010. ISBN 0-9823242-2-7.