Monday, January 25, 2010

Block out! Hit your free throws! Read!

Phil Jackson has established himself as one of the most successful coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association, having won a record ten titles. (Of course, having Michael Jordan on his Chicago teams and having Kobe Bryant on his current Los Angeles Lakers team hasn't hurt.) He has also earned the nickname of the "Zen master," for his interest in Buddhism and his sometimes unusual approaches to coaching.

For example, at the beginning of each season, he gives each of his players a book to read, and no, these books have nothing to do with the history of basketball or the execution of Jackson's vaunted triangle offense. Rather, they are general fiction or nonfiction titles which Jackson chooses especially for each player. This year, for example, Kobe Bryant received a distinguished work of Western fiction: Montana, 1948, by Larry Watson. Luke Walton, son of NBA hall-of-famer and infamous free spirit Bill Walton, got Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang. Jackson's Spanish center Pau Gasol should be kept busy reading Chilean author Roberto Bolano's massive 2066. Perhaps the most interesting gift was the one given to new Laker Ron Artest, famous not only for his intense playing style but his ferocious temperament: he got a copy of Jackson's own book, Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior. You might want to read that very carefully, Ron.

A complete list of Jackson's bibliographic bestowals can be found at the New Yorker's Book Bench blog.

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