Phil Jackson’s Bulls Didn’t Respect Don Nelson, Mike D’Antoni’s Small Ball

NBA Finals Rematches

The Chicago Bulls and their Tex Winter-created Triangle offense was their bread and butter.

Guided by head coach, Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, B.J. Armstrong, Steve Kerr, Ron Harper and many others prospered within the triangle.

Because the triangle was so superior to many, apparently other NBA coaches like Don Nelson and Mike D’Antoni’s small ball concepts were perceived as inferior to the Bulls according to basketball historian, Roland Lazenby.

Appearing on the Scoop B Radio Podcast, Lazenby shared more.

Check out our Q&A below:

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Yes. I think that’s interesting. My stepfather himself was a musician and I played saxophone for a little while. What I’ve learned about music is that the conflict of bonding and the conflict of people’s egos and the concept of talent and everybody knowing their role in a particular band definitely ties into the roles that people play like players on a basketball court.

Roland Lazenby:
The whole flow of the thing. That’s why George Mumford who was Dr. J’s roommate at UMass, back in the 70’s was the team psychologist for the Bulls with Jordan and later with the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe. George is not only one of my dear friends but he is a mentor. Because he is the Zen Master to Phil Jackson. He would a great guy to have on your show sometime. But he was the guy who did all the meditations and all the mindfulness and all the sorting out relationships with those Bulls and Lakers teams. And they all had an immense respect for him. And George was just such a guy that got me thinking of terms of flow and that was the fun part about those Phil Jackson teams. Sometimes Phil was known more for what he didn’t say than for what he said and some of the people who worked with him for a while, usually not his players, but the PR people would think it, the people who were the butt of his actions. I always felt that Phil was full of s–t a lot of times, but there was a – there was an important thing about that. Doc Rivers meditates. That’s how he can cope with all the stress of coaching in the NBA with everything required. And you see that more and more. George Mumford works with all kinds of people, he speaks to the mind of the athlete and it really is – there are things that Phil did and Phil could be a real pain in the butt. But he also did things that elevated the game. And a lot of the mindfulness stuff he did by bringing in George and relying heavily on Tex Winter and the Triangle which was a read offense. It was a complicated way, but once everybody got settled into it, and sometimes it took some time. But once they did, it was really empowering to the players. And there are other ways to do that today, the game has moved on from the Triangle. It’s an old, old offense. Even though Phil was less than perfect, he was a primary figure in an extraordinary era for the game and for popular culture. Jordan became such a figure. That was important to him and it was more important to the culture.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson:
Yeah! I think that’s interesting. Because I think in the era in which we live in where everyone is focusing on mental health and just channeling the mind and more, I just think it’s interesting with the All-Star game in 2020, we now recognize the iconic team that is the Chicago Bulls. You know, you saw Phil Jackson burning sage and people thinking it was marijuana smoke. You saw how Phil Jackson used the media to get players’ attention. Imagine Phil Jackson coaching the Bulls in this era…that would be VERY interesting to watch.

Roland Lazenby:
I’m not sure, that is something I hadn’t thought about. But having Phil today in the League – you know they used to laugh at Don Nelson the coaching staff on the Bulls. They used to laugh at Don Nelson and Mike D’Antoni and all those guys that wanted to play up-tempo. Tex’s phrase was, “You can hurry to a butt whippin’!” Those Bulls and Lakers teams made their living off of controlling tempo and stovin’ your head in with what they did. They would spread the floor in the half court, particularly in the playoffs, all kinds of tricks – just shred opposing teams. They obviously ran a secondary or controlled break. They didn’t want to turn down baskets when somebody gave ‘em especially when they had their pressure defense going but, they were not a team to just go out and like just throw the tempo to the wind. They wanted to control everything. They laughed. They said guys like D’Antoni and Don Nelson win a lot of regular season games but when it came to playoff basketball, they could just never get it done. Lack of focus.