Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson made magic together with the Chicago Bulls. The greatest player in NBA history teamed up with the Zen Master to bring six NBA titles to the Windy City. Much like the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick combo, it’s impossible to find a better player-coach duo in the storied history of the NBA. However, while Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson get associated with winning titles, there’s another figure who His Airness played for who also boasts a championship pedigree.
Michael Jordan won six NBA titles with Phil Jackson
A great head coach can’t succeed on his own. In the case of Phil Jackson, he didn’t become a household name until joining forces with Michael Jordan. Prior to taking over in Chicago, the Zen Master spent years as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Nets. Everything changed right before the new decade when Jackson took over as the Bulls’ head coach beginning with the 1989-90 season.
From there, the man famous for implementing the triangle offense helped the Bulls reach their immense potential. With Jordan dominating as the league’s best player, Chicago won three consecutive NBA titles to kickstart the ’90s. Of course, His Airness also had some help from Scottie Pippen in the early dynasty days. The Bulls captured three more championships, but not before MJ took his talents to another playing field. And along the way, he ended up getting coached by another future champion.
Jordan played under Terry Francona in Birmingham
Following his father’s murder, Jordan abruptly retired from the NBA at the height of his powers. He put down the basketball in favor of a baseball bat. Years away from the game didn’t stop the elite athlete from trying to break into the big leagues. Jordan honed his craft with the Birmingham Barons, a minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
Interestingly, his manager in Birmingham turned out to be a future champion in his own sport. As the three-time NBA champion attempted to develop his baseball skills, he did so under the watchful eye of Terry Francona. At the time, he may not have been a household name. But ultimately, the minor league manager made his own leap to stardom. Only it would take a decade for Francona to savor the sweet taste of a title.
Francona brought championships to Boston
Baseball may have been just a brief stop in Michael Jordan’s career arc, but for Terry Francona, it’s been a lifelong journey. He established himself as an up-and-coming star and landed a job as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Though he posted a disappointing 285-363 record, that didn’t stop the Boston Red Sox from taking a chance on the 45-year-old. That decision paid off tremendously for a franchise that had gone nearly a century without winning a World Series.
In his first year on the job, Terry Francona managed an eclectic group of players, to put it lightly. Manny Ramirez dominated from the batter’s box and certainly provided oodles of entertainment. On the mound, Pedro Martinez still ranked as one of the top pitchers even at the age of 32. Along with stars like David Ortiz and Curt Schilling, the Red Sox snapped their infamous 86-year World Series curse in dramatic fashion following an epic ALCS comeback against the hated New York Yankees.
Michael Jordan’s former minor league manager made sure that the 2004 season wasn’t a fluke. The Red Sox also won the 2007 World Series by sweeping the Colorado Rockies. However, Boston gave its two-time World Series champion manager the boot after the 2011 season. Francona won 744 games in eight years and never posted a losing record. Though the Red Sox captured titles in 2013 and 2018, they have finished in last place three times and will open the 2020 season with their fourth manager since firing Terry Francona.