When Jerry Krause fired Doug Collins in 1989 after the Bulls lost to the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals for the second straight season, the move shocked many across the NBA landscape.
That included Michael Jordan.
“I wasn’t a Phil Jackson fan when he first came in,” Jordan said in Episode 4 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary, referencing Krause’s replacement for Collins. “He was coming in to take the ball out of my hands. Doug put the ball in my hands.”
After enjoying free reign under Collins, Jordan initially balked at Jackson’s desire to incorporate the Triangle offense. The system, advocated by assistant coach Tex Winter, emphasized ball and player movement and a read-and-react style that, in theory, provided more equal opportunity offense.
“Everybody has an opportunity to touch the ball,” Jordan said in the documentary. “But I didn’t want Bill Cartwright to have the ball with five seconds left. That’s not an equal opportunity offense. That’s f**king bulls**t.”
Jordan eventually learned to embrace the offense, which the Bulls utilized to win six championships. Three times in NBA Finals clinching games, Jordan passed up game-sealing shots at critical junctures — twice to John Paxson (1991, 1993), and once and Steve Kerr (1997).
“Phil took over and just had a different approach,” Scottie Pippen said. “Doug’s approach was more catered to Michael. And Phil’s approach was more catered to the team.”
Jordan still took plenty of shots. He led the league in scoring for seven straight seasons from 1986 to his first retirement in 1993 and again for three straight seasons during the second three-peat.
But the triangle offense helped lead to a change in mindset in which Jordan began trusting his teammates more.