Robert Horry is one of the most decorated players in the NBA.
Appearing on the Scoop B Radio Podcast, Horry’s former Lakers teammate John Celestand told me that Horry and Phil Jackson did not get along right away during their early days in Los Angeles. “Well, for me it wasn’t any transition at all because I was a rookie,” he told me.
I’m coming in and I’m playing with Phil Jackson. For the rest of the guys … and remember I’m a rookie, so I’m not there with them before when they were playing for Del Harris. You know, Dennis Rodman was playing on the team a year before and remember that wasn’t the best Dennis Rodman of his career when he played for the Lakers. I was hearing how dysfunctional the locker room was, but I think the adjustment was that Phil was not as much as a hands-on coach as he was a manager and his whole thing was kind of breaking everything back down and getting us to learn how to play basketball and to be one as a team. And you gotta remember now, he’s bringing a whole new offense. So for me, it put me on an equal footing with everybody else because I didn’t have to come in and learn the offense that they all knew. We were all learning the same thing together and by the way, I thought I was AHEAD of them now that I think about it because, I played in the Summer League and we learned the Triangle Offense then.
Celestand was the Lakers’ 30th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft and was a member of the Lakers’ 1999–2000 championship team. He remembers the early days of learning the Triangle Offense being interesting. “A lot of these guys – Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Shaq – they’re just learning it right in training camp,” said Celestand.
I think I had a leg up from that standpoint. But it was more of getting used to the way Phil coached, getting used to the – he was a Zen Buddhist; so we did a lot of meditation. He was introducing all of those things outside of basketball a lot of guys – especially macho guys like ourselves, athletes who had never done this before; now this is before yoga and all these things became the craze. You know, this is ’99! We’re like, ’ So what are you talking about we meditating? Talking about doing yoga? What are you talking about burning incense in the locker room? What the hell does that have to do with basketball? … So it’s all these things that we’re figuring out with Phil and giving us books to read. Those type of things.
That’s where Horry comes in.
“I think that we were all trying to figure it out and you know, and there were guys that were kind of like – I remember Robert Horry was on the team and most of us were in awe of Phil Jackson, because here you are and you know, you play for Phil Jackson,” recounted Celestand.
He coached Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen right? And I remember there was a little tug of war with Robert Horry because Horry was like, ‘I won two championships. I got two rings. I know how to win. So I don’t NEED to listen!’… so that was an interesting dynamic for me because I was like wow, there’s a little tug of war there like ‘I don’t sweat you.’ – They had some friction at the beginning of the season and they worked it out, you know? So, it was a lot going on.
To Horry’s credit, he thinks a great deal of Jackson. When I asked him how he compares Jackson and Gregg Popovich he was candid.
“I put Phil right there; tied for second with Pop,” Horry told Scoop B Radio.
“Him and Pop were so similar in the fact that they stressed defense and they liked running their systems to a tee. Even though Phil had more athletic guys where he could venture off from running his system, Pop had a bunch of robots that would run that system and lull you to sleep and the next thing you know, they got a bucket. Phil of course had Kobe and MJ who could create their own shots and that made his system a lot better.”