Phil Jackson knew how to win. In fact, he's the winningest coach in NBA history with 11 NBA Championships, 6 with the Chicago Bulls and a certain Michael Jordan, and five subsequently with the LA Lakers. He is the only coach who has won multiple championships with more than one team.
Yet, the one word that seems to underline his philosophy more than any other and flies in the face of the macho world of the NBA (and perhaps much of male professional sport) is 'compassion'. In his book 'Sacred Hoops - spiritual lessons of a hardwood warrior' he writes:
'Compassion is not exactly the first quality one looks for in a player. But as my practice matured, I began to appreciate the importance of playing with an open heart. Love is the force that ignites the spirit and binds teams together. Obviously, there's an intellectual component to playing basketball. Strategy is important. But once you've done the mental work, there comes a point when you have to throw yourself into the action and put your heart on the line. That means not only being brave, but also being compassionate, toward yourself, your teammates, and your opponents.'
And whilst he was a serial winner, he was not obsessed with the winning:
'Eventually, everybody loses, ages, changes. And small triumphs - a great play, a moment of true sportsmanship - count, even though you may not win the game. As strange as it may seem, being able to accept change or defeat with equanimity gives you freedom to go out on the floor and give the game your all.
I used to believe that the day I could accept defeat was the day I would have to give up my job. But losing is as integral a part of the dance as winning. Buddhism teaches us that by accepting death, you discover life. Similarly, only by acknowledging the possibility of defeat can you fully experience the joy of competition. Our culture would have us believe that being able to accept loss is tantamount to setting yourself up to lose. But not everyone can win all the time; obsessing about winning adds an unnecessary layer of pressure that constricts body and spirit and, ultimately, robs you of the freedom to do your best.'