Lakers head coach and University of North Dakota alumnus Phil Jackson will add an academic honor to his growing list of career accomplishments Monday, August 25 when he receives an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from his alma mater during a 2 pm (CST) convocation ceremony at the on-campus Chester Fritz Auditorium.

A graduate of UND in 1967 after pursuing studies in religion, philosophy and psychology, Jackson will join the ranks of more than 200 UND honorary degree recipients over the past 99 years, including Crown Prince Olav of Norway in 1939, President John F. Kennedy in 1963, journalist and North Dakota native Eric Sevareid in 1970, philosopher Mortimer Adler in 1983 and famed cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Michael E. DeBakey in 1990. UND presented its first honorary degree in 1909 to Webster Merrifield, who served the University for 25 years, including 18 as its third president.

"UND is pleased to award the Honorary Doctorate of Letters degree to an outstanding alumnus of the University, Mr. Phil Jackson," said UND President Robert O. Kelley. "Mr. Jackson was nominated for this distinction by the academic faculty and staff of the University. The award acknowledges Mr. Jackson's commitment to scholarship and to the application of philosophical and psychological principles to human performance and excellence in athletic competition."

Jackson will receive his doctorate from UND's College of Arts and Sciences, headed by dean Martha Potvin. Following the convocation at 5 pm on Monday, Jackson will be the featured guest at the latest installment of the University's "Great Conversation" series at the Chester Fritz Auditorium. The event, part of the school's 125th anniversary celebration, is an opportunity for the community to have an informal conversation with Phil Jackson. Public and media questions can be submitted prior to the event by going online at, then click on "Schedule of Events." Some of the questions will be selected for the conversation with Jackson.

Jackson grew up in Williston, N.D., before moving on to take classes and play basketball at UND. Recruited by Bill Fitch, who also would move on to a career in NBA coaching, Jackson earned consecutive All-American honors at UND for his performance on the hardwood. An unorthodox, left-handed hook shot helped him to average nearly 27.5 points per game during his senior year.

Selected by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1967 NBA Draft, Jackson went on to be part of two NBA Championship teams in New York as a player.

His coaching career started modestly in the Continental Basketball Association, winning one CBA championship with the Albany (N.Y.) Patroons. He also had a stint with the Puerto Rican national team.

Finally in 1987, he broke into coaching at the NBA level as an assistant with the Chicago Bulls. Two years later, Jackson was named Bulls' head coach. Now after 17 years of coaching in the NBA with both the Bulls and Lakers, Jackson has posted a mark of 976-418 (.700) which currently stands as the best winning percentage of any coach in NBA annals. The fastest coach to 900 career victories, his total of 976 regular season wins ranks him 6th all-time. With a career postseason record of 193-84, Jackson also has the highest playoff winning percentage of any coach in NBA history while his 193 wins are the postseason benchmark for head coaches. His nine NBA Championships as a head coach tie him for the all-time mark with Boston’s Red Auerbach. The 1996 NBA Coach of the Year, Jackson was named one of the 10 greatest head coaches in NBA history on December 7, 1996. A little more than a decade later, Jackson was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September of 2007.

In addition to all his great awards and milestones, Jackson was given the state of North Dakota's highest honor -- the Rough Rider Award -- in 1992. His portrait and plaque now hang in the state Capitol in Bismarck with other past Rough Rider Award winners, such as one-time baseball home run king Roger Maris, band leader Lawrence Welk, singer Peggy Lee and UND's eighth president Tom Clifford.

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