Vail Daily Editor Don Rogers: Why I’m a big fan of Phil Jackson
Vail, CO, Colorado
I have to admit I’m a longtime Phil Jackson fan.
I’m a fan of how he played for my second favorite team, the New York Knicks, while the game was everything to me in junior high and high school in suburban Los Angeles.
I’m a fan of his books, especially “Sacred Hoops,” which I’ve read a couple of times now. Besides the basketball, I found helpful clues in it for my own role overseeing news staffs over the years.
We lived in the region — Holland, Mich., and later in western Illinois — during the Chicago Bulls’ run of six NBA championships in the ’90s with Jackson coaching. I loved how the team with the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan, just happened to play the best team ball in the league. It was hard not to be a fan of that team.
And then the Lakers. Favorite coach with the blood team. Four championships and counting, though a tough team to love in this county.
But all that’s just fandom, appreciation for the performance. Too often we fans mistake the performance for the person, and then think we know our notables as people. It’s a silly mistake in perspective.
Here’s what I really like about Jackson the person:
• He’s stayed close to old friends from childhood in North Dakota. I know this through Dave Haakenson, as good a friend as Jackson — or anyone — could hope to have in life. They have stayed in touch almost daily all these years.
Haakenson strikes me as someone who is as grounded, straight-shooting and clear-headed as anyone you’ll ever meet. I know he’s very proud of his lifelong friend, Phil. I’m also certain he doesn’t mince words if he thinks his friend has taken a wrong turn.
And if Haakenson says someone is all right, I’m inclined to trust him on it.
• Four years ago, Jackson pretty much ignored me when we met briefly before he spoke at 4 Eagle Ranch and focused on my son, Ben, entering his senior year in high school.
Ben spilled all his athletic hopes and dreams like I had not heard before, and Jackson seemed very interested. Wrong sport, the kid’s a runner, and never a star. Just a hard worker who for some godforsaken reason loves a sport that in college not even the parents come to watch.
He told the coach about his plans to run cross country in college, how he was contacting coaches, planning to walk on, and that was simply his dream.
Dad wasn’t buying into it, I’ll admit now. But Jackson, the Hall of Fame coach with a record number of NBA championships, sure seemed to. Talk about validation for an obscure kid from Eagle’s daring dreams.
Guess what? The kid has run varsity throughout his collegiate career, after barfing his way through his first time trial to just make the team. He’s captain now.
How do I feel about Jackson? I love the guy. Are you kidding? I think that encounter made a difference for my kid. You can’t underestimate those moments.
So yeah, I’m a fan. I’m a huge fan.
I’m writing today in hopes of some dad like me, or maybe a mom, with a son or daughter with similar dreams will decide to come to 4 Eagle Ranch this Sunday to hear Jackson speak again. Who knows, maybe he’ll connect with your kid and make a difference.
And I’m writing today in hopes of helping fill some last seats for the event so that the Swift Eagle group can help locals in need that much more during our hard economic times. This period is all the harder for the spike in need and the pinch on a distressed business community that has less it can give.
These folks, long-time locals themselves, are devoted to helping other locals in a rough patch.
The group’s roots lie in a long, not-yet-successful search for buried treasure, Jackson’s Lakota name and a vivid dream.
It’s too long a story for this space, but maybe they’ll tell it at the fundraiser Sunday featuring Jackson at 4 Eagle Ranch, starting at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6 and presentation at 7. For more information, call Ginny Snowdon at 970-949-5279 or e-mail email@example.com.
Don Rogers is the editor and publisher of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2920. He welcomes your comments.