Phil Jackson

You probably haven’t thought much about Scot Pollard since he advised kids to do drugs four years ago. After that statement, you might be inclined to not take anything he says too seriously — like when he parrots the claim of Phil Jackson haters everywhere that Jackson is overrated because he won all 11 of his championships with future Hall of Famers on his teams.

Pollard made this claim on KHTK Radio in Sacramento yesterday, and while he’s not the first person to share this opinion — and he certainly won’t be the last — my problem isn’t with the statement itself but that it’s stale and pointless. Yes, having all-time great players on your team certainly helps a coach win championships. But it doesn’t guarantee the kind of success Jackson achieved. You’re entitled to say that other coaches could have won as many championships with that kind of talent, and I’ll respond that you have no proof to back that up. People who make that claim are speaking in pure theoreticals, and are therefore talking directly out of their asses.

If I had to assign a particular fallacy to Pollard’s argument, it would be “confusing cause and effect”. This fallacy is defined by Dr. Michael C. Labossiere — author of Fallacy Tutorial Pro 3.0 – as having the following general form:

  1. A and B regularly occur together.
  2. Therefore A is the cause of B.

Phil Jackson’s championship teams all had Hall of Fame quality players on them, but it can’t be proven that was the only significant reason they won all those championships. Could Jackson have coached the Toronto Raptors (you pick the season) to a championship? Of course not. But guess what? Neither could any other coach. Therefore, it’s a stupid argument, and Scot Pollard is stupid (or on drugs, possibly both) if he honestly believes otherwise.

(Yes, I’m aware I just committed an ad hominem. Let’s move on.)

I’m neither a fan nor a hater of Phil Jackson, but I acknowledge that he deserves to be regarded as the greatest coach in NBA history because he’s fifth all-time in regular season wins, first all-time in playoff wins and first all-time in championships. That’s a résumé that no other coach can match.

Regardless of how you consider Phil Jackson’s coaching accomplishments, I think we can all agree that his way with words and his deftness with which he took potshots at his opponents will be missed. I don’t expect that Phil will bother to respond to these statements, but if he was asked, I imagine the conversation would go something like this.

Reporter: How do you respond to Scot Pollard’s claim that you’re overrated because you had Hall of Fame players to work with?

Phil: Who?