When Phil Jackson was NBA title-winning head coach of the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s, one of his stand-out players was the rebellious, rule-breaking Dennis Rodman. While Rodman had a reputation for aggressive on-court play and off-court antics, Jackson was very much the opposite, following Zen Buddhist principles and meditating to quiet his restless mind. So how did such a calm and centered coach control such a wild and unpredictable player?
In his interview for Oprah's "Super Soul Sunday," Jackson reveals the unexpected key to coaching Rodman. As he writes in his book, "Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success," three Zen principles have been critical to Jackson as a leader -- one of which was crucial in his coaching of Rodman. In essence, Jackson managed to control Rodman by giving up control.
"When we try to control [the] personalities that we're with, it's like trying to control a farm animal -- a sheep or a cow -- in a pasture that's too small for it. It'll break through the fences," Jackson explains. "You need to have a lot of space to move."
Similarly, Jackson says that this principle can be applied to people as well. "It's the same way with a player. He has some abhorrent behavior going on and if you sit back and just allow [it]... Okay, now he's through. Now he's centered again. Now we're okay," the coach says.
When it came to Rodman in particular, Jackson had watched Rodman prior to his joining the Bulls and says that what he observed helped influence how he coached the rebel. "He was with the Detroit Pistons and Chuck Daly, who I admired as a coach, was an animated coach. And as he got animated, Dennis would become more animated on the floor. It's like his energy was right there, feeding into Dennis' energy source," Jackson tells Oprah. "So I thought, 'This guy, he can sometimes go over the edge. I'd better just sit back and become quiet and use that meditation practice while I'm sitting on the bench.'"