Michael Jordan sits heralded by many as the greatest player to step onto the NBA hardwood. The former Chicago Bulls star guard guided the franchise to sustained championship success as it sits as the defining aspect of his illustrious legacy. However, his former head coach Doug Collins, who Phil Jackson replaced, recently admitted he failed to see Jordan’s trajectory toward all-time greatness.
Michael Jordan’s legendary NBA career
After an impressive collegiate career at North Carolina, Jordan quickly leaped into NBA stardom.
His 15-year career saw him establish himself as arguably the greatest player in league history. Jordan’s resume speaks for itself as he set numerous NBA records and various individual historical marks. His legacy is defined by his championship success with six NBA titles in as many trips to the Finals with six Finals MVP awards.
Jordan earned five regular-season MVP awards, garnered 14 All-Star Game selections and 10 All-NBA First Team nods, received a Defensive Player of the Year award, and captured 10 scoring titles. He performed at his best in the playoffs, averaging an NBA record of 33.4 points per game while setting a league mark with eight 50-point performances.
Before he reached that level of greatness, one of his first NBA head coaches failed to recognize his destined career path.
The NBA coach that Phil Jackson replaced regrets not seeing Michael Jordan’s greatness: ‘I wish I would have known when I taken the job how good Michael really was going to be’
Jordan remains firmly planted by many as the GOAT.
However, it wasn’t a trajectory that everyone saw him reaching that vaunted status. Collins became the Bulls head coach in 1986, where he held the position for three years.
During a recent interview on the Glen Macnow & Ray Didinger Show on 94 WIP Sports Radio, Collins voiced that he wished he would have known how good Jordan would be before becoming the Bulls head coach.
“I wish I would have known when I taken the job how good Michael really was going to be,” Collins said via Basketball Network. “I mean, Michael had just come off the playoffs where he had had a broken foot. During the year he had missed, I think all but 18 games. He then came back in the playoffs. And I mean the show he put on in Boston garden against the Celtics. I think Larry Bird had a comment one time he said the guy who I just played against god or somebody who was disguising himself as Michael Jordan.”
Collins took the coaching job after Jordan’s second campaign, where he played only 18 regular-season games due to a broken foot. Up to that point, the North Carolina product showcased that he was a phenomenal scoring talent but hadn’t taken the next leap forward.
Jordan continued his promising trajectory as he averaged north of 32 points in each of the three campaigns under Collins. He led the Bulls to the playoffs, topped by an Eastern Conference Finals berth in Collins’ last year. Although Chicago took progressive leaps forward, the need for a cultural change at head coach became the evident missing piece with Phil Jackson.
Phil Jackson became the missing element for Michael Jordan
Behind Jordan, the Bulls were becoming a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference but couldn’t get over the hump.
Jackson’s arrival set the tone for the franchise while giving the star guard the guidance and confidence to push the Bulls toward sustained championship success. In seven seasons together, the two won six NBA titles, captured six Central division titles, and recorded five 60-win campaigns highlighted by a then-record 72-win regular season.
The two worked with tremendous cohesion as Jackson served as the calming force while Jordan led the charge on the court. It was much more than those factors alone, but it anchored the team’s dominance in the 1990s. Beyond that, their legacies remain forever intertwined behind the historic accomplishments together.