Phil Jackson didn’t have a reputation as an especially tough coach like Tom Thibodeau did with the Bulls a decade later, but he did have a rule about fining players for not running the offense, no matter the game situation.
Jackson was on an episode of ESPN’s show “Detail” in conjunction with “The Last Dance” debuting on Sunday. In the show, Jackson basically gives a film session and goes over some plays from Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals between the Bulls and the Utah Jazz.
The Bulls entered the game at the United Center with the series tied a game apiece. They left up 2-1 after a dominant 96-54 win.
Jackson describes the on-screen action of some hand-picked plays the Bulls ran on offense. He gives some explanation of the triangle offense and goes into more detail about the types of plays the Bulls ran.
One play, at the very end of the show, seemed out of place in the 25-minute show for its lack of relevance at first glance. Jackson talked about a play with the Bulls up a whopping 40 points with less than 30 seconds to go and the starters on the bench.
“As you can see this game winding down, you can see we’re still staying in the offense,” Jackson said. “One of the things we did is if guys took a 3-point shot out of sequence, they got a silly fine. Offense not run correctly or aborted, we had reprimands. Basically, not a fine, but we wanted guys to honor the game. That’s basically what was the theory behind the way we wanted to play. So this is just an action here putting the ball in the air before the clock runs out and finishing this game out without trying to humiliate your opponents.”
A fine for taking a bad shot isn’t particularly unusual, but the point Jackson was making is that he wanted his team to always run the offense no matter what the circumstance was. Being up 40 with less than 30 seconds left still applied.
For what it’s worth, Bill Wennington sank a jumper on that play to extend the lead to 96-54. That still stands as the biggest margin of victory in NBA Finals history.