Phil Jackson Was Praised For Teaching Buddhism, Mark Jackson Was Fired For Preaching Something Else


Two more episodes of The Last Dance documentary aired over our television screens last Sunday with the already well-documented rivalry between Isaiah Thomas’ ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Pistons and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, having featured heavily in the sports talk shows that have followed. But episode four saw some time dedicated to Phil Jackson, his Zen Buddhism beliefs and how he shared those beliefs with his players and interwove them into Bulls practices.

Steve Kerr, who played for the Bulls and Phil Jackson from 1993 to 1998, is quoted in the documentary stating: “I had never met a coach who was that different and genuine when it came to bringing the group together. He had this real interest in Native American history and he would weave that into our own culture.”

Bill Wennington who played for the Bulls from 1993 to 1999 added: “He [Jackson] brought in Zen Buddhism and Native American Indian philosophies. Everything was about being focused, playing as one.”

Steve Kerr and Bill Wennington talk about the so-called “Zen Master” Phil Jackson.

This took place back in the nineties and was widely known at the time. In fact, Jackson would go on to coach Shaq, Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers utilising the same philosophies, and was widely praised for his success. He is even endearingly referred to by everyone in NBA circles as “the Zen Master”. Clearly, the NBA had no issue back then, nor has any issue today, with Zen Buddhism, Native American philosophies and other pagan beliefs, being taught to players and being implemented into practices.

Christianity however, or anything claiming to be Christian, is something entirely different.

Back in 2014, another Jackson was the coach of yet another special basketball team: a team on the cusp of becoming dynastic. He was, after another very good season, fired, and to this day, has been unable to land another head coaching job in the NBA.

“It was the politics and then, you know how it is, once they want you out, they’re going to find something,” said Andre Iguodala who played for Coach Mark Jackson and the Warriors back in 2014.

During his interview on ‘The Breakfast Club’ Iguodala revealed, “he [Mark Jackson] had church in the facility like on Wednesday sometimes, he would stream his church service … like Wednesday night service.”

He recalled that “He [Jackson] would just set up a computer in the facility and he’d just preach, and then his congregation could watch, just stream it from at home or from the church.”

Mark Jackson [left] lost his job for quoting Bible verses to his players, but Phil Jackson has been lauded for exposing his players to Buddhist practices and beliefs.

But this wasn’t fine with the Warriors organisation. As Iguodala put it “One particular issue, from what I heard, was his views on gender or marriage or what the Bible says on your sexuality…”

“Rick Welts … he’s gay,” recalled Iguodala, “so there was conflicts [sic] with that that was widespread. Everyone was talking about that.”

Iguodala continued, “It’s interesting, someone mentioned it to me, people can express themselves, but are you allowed to express yourself [when the organisations] don’t agree with it?”

The year Jackson was fired, team owner Joe Lacob said Jackson’s relationship with non-players was an issue.

“Part of it was that he couldn’t get along with anybody else in the organization,” he said to The Mercury News. “And look, he did a great job, and I’ll always compliment him in many respects, but you can’t have 200 people in the organization not like you.”

But Lacob was more than a bit disingenuous with that response. While there’s probably a bit of truth to it, it wasn’t the only or even main reason Jackson was fired.

As Scoop Jackson wrote in 2014 after Mark’s sacking: “When Jason Collins came out and Jackson felt one way about homosexuality and the execs felt another, it was reportedly held against Jackson. Losses at home began to get dissected differently. The fact Jackson was a pastor suddenly became somewhat inconvenient to the Warriors’ basketball culture. Unnamed sources came out in reports on an almost weekly basis finding fault with everything from Jackson citing Bible verses in the locker room to him being insubordinate and not, as he himself said, “managing up.”

Clearly the NBA had and has a problem with a coach citing Bible verses, but not with using Zen Buddhism, or any other religious philosophy for that matter. Anything to do with Christ [whether true Christianity or even nominal Christianity] must be ostracized and cut off from the wider society.

“When one of the team executives is openly gay and the coach is open about not necessarily being in support of homosexuality there are going to be problems.” Scoop Jackson wrote.

Mark Jackson has since said: “We live in a country that allows you to be whoever you want to be. As a Christian man, I serve a God that gives you free will to be who you want to be. As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family, and am certainly praying for them at this time.”

Now I don’t believe Mark Jackson is a true Christian (only Catholics are), but he was clearly willing to stand by those views of his which are Christian. And while Jackson continues to hold the non-Christian view that “a country that allows you to be whatever you want to be ” is a good thing, and that such a vague ideal actually includes Christians, he will continue to be blackballed until he relents and plays (the ‘gay-mafia’) ball.


Dean Nestor

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