Although Phil Jackson is viewed as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, former Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale isn’t exactly a fan of the Zen Master.
Former coaching icon Phil Jackson is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all-time, and rightfully so. Jackson boasts 11 titles to his resume, including six of seven between the 1995-96 season through the 2001-02 season. Jackson was known for running a system that traces back to the early 1970s of the Houston Rockets‘ years, which is where Tex Winter first ran the triangle offense.
Although Jackson is held in high regard by basketball fans, he didn’t exactly make friends with his opponents, case in point Kevin McHale. The former Rockets coach was on Houston’s ESPN-based radio show 97.5 The Game and had some rather interesting comments about the Zen Master, to say the least.
“Phil is Phil. Phil’s different. I don’t know him well and that’s by design. I don’t know him well because I made it a point not to. I don’t know anything about him and I don’t particularly care that I don’t know him.”
McHale made it known that he has no desire to develop a relationship with Jackson, which is interesting due to how well respected Jackson is around the league, and especially when McHale was playing. It’s also interesting considering how McHale faced off against Jackson during several stages of his career.
McHale played against Jackson’s Bulls during his playing days with the Boston Celtics and faced off against Jackson when both were coaching during the 2008-09 season, which is the only season in which their coaching careers intertwined. But it was during McHale’s executive days that he and Jackson once famously clashed.
Jackson once made comments about McHale sabotaging a trade that would have sent Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007, as McHale was the GM in Minnesota at the time of the deal. Jackson stated that McHale was trying to help out his former teammate Danny Ainge, who was the GM of the Boston Celtics at the time, while also adding that McHale was trying to keep KG away from the Lakers. Garnett was ultimately dealt to the Celtics, who defeated Jackson’s Lakers en route to winning the championship in 2008.
Jackson also once stated that the Rockets’ titles were tainted due to Michael Jordan‘s unexpected retirement in 1993, which is certainly the type of talk that won’t endear opponents to the famed coach. He also once stated that Steve Nash was difficult to face because he’s able to “pick the ball up and run with it”, which hinted that the league’s officiating crew allowed Nash to get away with carrying.
Speaking of which, Jackson also stated that LeBron James “travels every other time he touches the basketball” during an interview he did back in 2015, in which he was complaining about the modern NBA offenses. Jackson also once complained about Kevin Durant getting Michael Jordan treatment from the officials, which drew him a $35,000 fine.
Although Jackson frequently called out opponents, he wasn’t afraid to call out his own players. The Zen Master criticized Kobe Bryant during a book he wrote in 2004 titled “The Last Season”, in which he described Kobe as being uncoachable. Jackson also had an ugly feud with former Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony during Melo’s days with the New York Knicks, which also shows that he had no qualms about publicly criticizing his franchise players.
When you add all of this up, it’s no surprise that the former Houston Rockets coach, or anyone for that matter, wouldn’t like Jackson, and it’s especially not surprising considering the personal history the two Hall of Famers have with and against one another.