Michael Jordan Wasn’t Happy When Bulls Fired Doug Collins and Named Phil Jackson Coach: ‘I Wasn’t a Phil Jackson Fan When He First Came In’

Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson are arguably the greatest player-coach duo in NBA history. They led the Chicago Bulls to six championships while going undefeated in the Finals and three-peated twice in the ’90s.

However, many people forget that Jordan had a close relationship with Doug Collins and wasn’t happy when the Bulls fired him and named Jackson the head coach in 1989.

Michael Jordan: “I wasn’t a Phil Jackson fan when he first came in”

In Episode 4 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, Jordan admitted that he wasn’t a fan of Jackson when the Zen Master first became the Bulls coach in 1989. The MVP enjoyed playing for Collins since he had the ball in his hands a lot.

“I wasn’t a Phil Jackson fan when he first came in,” Jordan said. “Because he was coming in to take the ball out of my hands. Doug put the ball in my hands.”

Jackson installed the triangle offense after taking over Collins. The triangle offense is set so that there’s a key pass that creates motion, and then there are 33 different types of options that come out of that single pass. According to Jackson, players could do spontaneous and creative things using their strengths, but Jordan didn’t like the offense at first.

“Everybody has an opportunity to touch the ball, but I didn’t want Bill Cartwright to have the ball with five seconds left,” Jordan said in The Last Dance. “That’s not equal-opportunity offense. That’s f****** bulls***.”

Jackson had a meeting with Jordan explaining why he felt the triangle offense would help the Bulls win championships. While Chicago didn’t win a title in Jackson’s first season at the helm, it took off in Year 2.

Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson dominated the ’90s together

The Bulls became a dynasty after Jackson took over for Collins. They won championships in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, and 1998 and set an NBA record for wins with 72 in 1995-96.

Jordan averaged 30.8 points while shooting 50.1% from the field in 585 regular-season games under Jackson. Even though he questioned if Jackson was the right coach for him at first, the results showed that the Montana native was exactly what MJ needed. The five-time MVP won 10 scoring titles with the Bulls, and seven of those came in the triangle offense.

Jordan developed such a close bond with Jackson that he refused to play for another coach. The superstar wouldn’t have re-signed with the Bulls in the summer of 1997 if Jackson hadn’t gotten a new deal. Jordan and Jackson’s final season together was in 1997-98. Jerry Krause told reporters that Jackson wouldn’t return in 1998-99, so Jordan knew 1997-98 was his final run with the Bulls, and he made sure it was legendary.

Bulls’ 1997-98 season was magical

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Not only did the Bulls win the 1998 championship over the Utah Jazz, but Jordan won his 10th scoring title, fifth regular-season MVP, and sixth Finals MVP. Jackson also did a terrific job keeping the group steady early in the season when Scottie Pippen was out and Dennis Rodman took a mini-vacation to Las Vegas.

The Last Dance camera crew followed the Bulls around in 1997-98. Despite all the players and coaches knowing that their run would end after the season because of Krause, they never lost focus and made it a point to end the dynasty on top.

Jackson compiled a staggering record of 545-193 with the Bulls. Surprisingly, he only won one Coach of the Year Award. That was in 1995-96 when the Bulls went 72-10. Jackson made the Hall of Fame as a coach in 2007. He won 1,155 regular-season games and 11 championships with the Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.

Meanwhile, Jordan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. He’s the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game and player efficiency rating and the fifth-leading scorer ever.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference