During the legendary career of Phil Jackson – which saw the Zen Master win an unprecedented 11 rings – the player-turned-coach matched up against some of the toughest teams ever put together. From Jerry Sloan’s Utah Jazz, which featured the deadly one-two punch of John Stockton and Karl Malone, to Doc Rivers’ Boston Celtics, led by three talented veterans in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, Phil saw the best of the best.
However, which team was the hardest to coach against? According to the Williston Herald, Jackson recently revealed that it was the Detroit Pistons in the early 90s – the Bad Boys:
The most difficult team to coach against?
The Detroit Pistons of the early 1990s with Dennis Rodman, Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer were always the toughest team for Jackson to coach against.
“The Detroit Pistons were always hard to coach against,” Jackson said. “When I first got to Chicago, we had a couple of fracas.”
In 1989-90, which was Jackson’s first year as a head coach, the Zen Master lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Pistons. The Bad Boys got the best of Jackson’s Bulls, winning the series 4-3. It seems that Jackson’s first ever head coaching loss is one that still bothers him to this day.
A rivalry between the Bulls and Pistons ensued, though in 1995, Dennis Rodman teamed up with Michael Jordan. Rodman had been a major part of the Bad Boys, yet he made the transition to Chicago and was a part of the second three-peat in the Windy City.
As the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson would meet with Pistons once again 2004, though the purple and gold were hit by injury and would ultimately lose in five games to Detroit.