Phil Jackson Might Sometimes Say Silly Things, But That’s Okay

Phil Jackson was once remembered as being one of — if not the — best coaches in the history of basketball. Yet, that was “forever” ago: way before social media, and especially before he took over the duties of trying to make the incompetent New York Knicks slightly more competent. Jackson aimed to do this by taking a roster which more closely resembled a dumpster fire than an NBA playoff team and using his Hall of Fame soul to turn it around in less than a year to accomplish whatever expectations people put on him for a job he never held before.

Now, Phil Jackson is used more as a punchline than as an example of a coach being excellent. Thanks to the Knicks being (staying?) the Knicks; the public having the patience of a three-year-old by not allowing time for his transition to a new gig; and to Jackson’s own — sometimes ill-willed — honesty, it has become rather easy to wonder if Phil’s been hanging out with Bill Walton at a Dead concert.

Many of us giggled at him for downplaying the importance of the three-point shot during the NBA playoffs. We did so not because he spoke honestly on the subject, but because of the timing of his remarks: As he was trying to make his (wrong) point, four of the league’s best three-point shooting teams happened to be left in the race to win a participation trophy.

There was also that time he thought of a word, which was otherwise used as a racial slur, as a way to explain his thought process on the matter. That spawned the hashtag era of #goink and #goink jokes and #goink related shampoos and conditioners — except the latter are only in the FDA approval phase.

The latest example of Phil Jackson being too honest for his own good is when he told some folks that he sometimes wondered if Kristaps Porzingis might be “too tall for the game.” While the linked article does a great job describing the other vastly important details Jackson spoke of to discuss what he meant by his top draft pick being “too tall,” many saw his name attached to the weird quote and simply ran with it.

Why not?

We (media, blogs) love clicks, and (general) fans love laughing at the Zen Master. We have also already determined that Jackson’s 11 rings are worthless because he made some previously strange statements on the three-point shot and — again — he has yet to take the Knicks to wherever the hell we thought a guy with zero front office experience would take a team in this short a time frame.

However, it is okay. Not only is it okay to laugh at Jackson, but it is also okay for Jackson to make some bad and misguided (if not outright wrong) declarations here and there. Seriously, I mean that to be true for both of those statements.

Chuckle. No, really… chuckle. Have a laugh all you want at Jackson. Few of us had the chance to do so while he was having incredible runs with the Chicago Bulls and the Lakers, so enjoy it now. Seriously, because the entire “well, he only won because he had Kobe/MJ” slights are so played. They truly are.

Of course he only won because he had those guys (and a slew of others). I only have my two kids because my wife has made some poor nighttime decisions with me over the years. It takes more than one person to get things done in team activities. Get my gist?

As for Jackson, be you, man. You simply be you. You’ve certainly built enough equity in the game of basketball that you need not explain yourself and your thoughts to use Internet-hipsters out here. If you truly believe in whatever you are saying, great. If we (fans, media, etc.) decide to take some of the things you say out of context because it is funnier that way, that is on us, not you.

At the end of it all, though, I don’t want to lose this — not merely Jackson’s honesty, but our ability to have fun with it, or each other’s honesty. We constantly complain about the generic athlete and coach-speak going on right now (here’s looking at you, Russell Wilson), yet we will be the first people to pounce on top of an athlete, coach or executive when s/he speaks openly about it.

Yes, I do get it. I am not advocating for you to avoid making fun of Phil Jackson — or others — whenever they something as silly as #goink. I am simply saying to stop using that one instance as a reason to justify all our other out-of-context interpretations or other means we use to belittle people for the sake of our entertainment.

This is a give-and-take relationship. We need to stop (just) taking from Phil Jackson. We need to start allowing him to begin to give us our free entertainment on his own again. If we keep on the shenanigans of being quick to turn him into the living embodiment of a quagmire, we are going to lose him to the realm of “I am no longer speaking my mind because it only results in disaster” cult.

Let’s also make it a point to give back to the Phil Jacksons over the world… maybe by way of sometimes giving him the benefit of the doubt every once in a blue moon, because he does have some tremendous basketball credentials — just not the type that directly apply to a lot of the important areas his current job could use.

So, as per usual, this is on us. Some of Phil Jackson’s blunders are on us. We are to blame for thinking a basketball coach would make a great front office person simply because he was a Hall of Fame coach. That would be like assuming my six-year old daughter would be great at making hilarious adult-oriented YouTube videos because she has gotten extremely good at bypassing the child-setting on my IPad and manages to find the most inappropriate videos possible.

His poor choice of words, also, is on us. Yeah, the three-point thing is totally on him, but he is a hippie of sorts. He doesn’t know the proper way to walk-back #goink on Twitter. So, that is on us… and on those who designed a device which allows an aging fella the ability to (while possibly on mind-altering substances) instantly let the free world know his thoughts as they scamper throughout his cranium.

Finally, the idea of what we think Phil Jackson is — that’s completely on us. We have apparently decided that decades of success in the sport come without any leeway time, as Phil adjusts to a brand-new gig in one of the hardest places to win (at least from a recent historical perspective). We crowned him basketball’s court jester.

Still, let’s chuckle at the funny man, because none of us have said dumb things on Twitter (or elsewhere) despite being geniuses in that particular field:

About Joseph Nardone

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.