Chronicles Jackson's rise to prominence as a coach of professional basketball teams including the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, and explores his ability to successfully counsel, teach, and lead his players.
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Complex as he is colorful, Phil Jackson has led an improbable basketball life, marching to the tune of his own iconoclastic drummer and managing to win at every level along the way. He doesn't think like an average jock, nor does he approach his game like one: just ask Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neal, who've played better for him than for anyone else. Roland Lazenby couldn't have come up with a better title for his compelling exploration of what makes Jackson tick and how he evolved into one of the most successful and driven coaches in NBA history; for Jackson, the joy of his game is every bit as cerebral and psychological as it is physical. His aim, he says, is to help his players "strengthen the muscle of their minds."
Of course, Jackson--part shaman, part shrink, part mentor, part guide--has found some fascinating ways to strengthen his own, including LSD, meditation, Zen, Native American culture, William James's Varieties of Religious Experience, and the Grateful Dead. They are as much a part of Jackson's evolving core as pounding the offensive boards with the Knicks and warring with Bulls' management. If some of it seems contradictory, it is those very contradictions--more than the seven championship rings as a coach and two as a player--that make Jackson so interesting; they have helped him reshape and redefine the job. "Somehow," writes Lazenby, "Jackson has managed the very difficult feat of blending fun and discipline and spiritual exploration for his teams, sort of like combining a trip to the dentist with a carnival ride." No other coach has learned to walk that delicate balance so gracefully. But then, balance is Jackson's operating metaphor: keeping himself--and his teams--in balance while keeping opponents off theirs.
In Mindgames, Lazenby puts together a smart, solidly reported, and balanced portrait of a Zen master with a dark, driven side. He respects Jackson enough to not whitewash him. After all, innovators have a way of stepping on toes, and in basketball, the shoes, like the personalities, tend to be oversized. --Jeff SilvermanFrom the Inside Flap:
Mindgames is the story of Phil Jackson's remarkable rise to the top of the NBA coaching hierarchy. In it, author Roland Lazenby reveals the fascinating elements of Jackson's life and mental approach to coaching that have made followers of his players but also have made him--perhaps not surprisingly--unpredictable and sometimes unpopular to outsiders. It is also a detailed basketball story, with entertaining accounts from Jackson's years with the New York Knicks under the legendary Red Holzman to the remarkable six championships as coach of the Chicago Bulls and now a seventh title with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Born into a Pentecostal family that kept its distance from the secular world, the young Jackson developed deep appreciation for Native American culture and spiritual beliefs, beliefs that would later influence his unorthodox coaching methods. His transformation from naive child to streetwise flower child happened in a matter of months; his immersion in the counterculture of the 1960s and his injury-plagued NBA career would determine the person--and coach--he would become.
Regarded as a pariah from his playing days, Jackson toiled anonymously as coach of the Continental Basketball Association's Albany Patroons before the Bulls hired him as an assistant coach in 1987 at the unlikely age of forty-one. Assuming the head coaching duties after two seasons, he immediately separated himself from other NBA coaches by heaping pressure on opponents instead of his players. To lessen the anxiety of playing in the white-hot world of the NBA, he brought a thoughtful approach to performance--from meditation to mindfulness to yoga.
His success lies in his intensely psychological approach to building championship teams--maintaining authority without dictating to his players, building friendships with them without pandering to them, and earning their respect.
Jackson's approach is not for everyone. His battles with Bulls management spilled over into an ugly display in 1998 in the midst of their last championship run, and his relationships with a few NBA coaches have turned contentious. Yet even those who don't like him marvel at his mastery, at what he can do with a basketball team that no one else can.
In Mindgames, Lazenby compellingly portrays a man with a unique determination to control the competitive environment he inhabits. A clear picture of the Jackson mystique emerges: philosopher, teacher, manipulator, counselor, psychologist, shaman, champion, master of mind.
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