Dec 11 2012 11:29AM

The Greatest Laker Of Them All?


Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

The Lakers’ glass is not even half full without Phil.

Lost in the discussion last week about the greatest Laker of all-time—this talk surfaced once Kobe Bryant went over the 30,000-point scoring threshold—was the fact that perhaps the greatest Laker of all was in actuality a coach.

Think about it: What have the Lakers done without Phil Jackson as their head coach in the 21st Century?

With Phil, Los Angeles won five NBA championships and made seven NBA Finals appearances in 11 seasons with a 610-292 regular-season record (.676).

Without Phil, the Lakers are 84-85 in their third season sans Jackson (.497).

Other NBA head coaches—Rudy Tomjanovich, Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni—had similar talent on teams that spent lavishly—but achieved significantly less without Phil.

Kobe Bryant’s Lakers never reached the Finals without Phil in much the same way that Michael Jordan’s Bulls never reached the championship stage without Phil, even though numerous coaches had ample opportunity to take each to the promised land.

So in retrospect, does that make Phil Jackson the greatest Laker of all-time?

I know it’s funny to rate a coach’s importance on the same level as a superstar player.

But then again, the triangle-less Lakers—after firing Mike Brown and his Princeton offense, then installing Mike DAntoni and his “Seven Seconds or Less” offense—are 9-12 to start the new 2012-13 season.

And the man who may be laughing loudest indeed may be the greatest Laker of them all.