Phil Jackson: 6'8", athletic, and charismatic. A former player that had the respect of everyone. 11 rings as a head coach and 2 as a player. A practitioner of Zen Buddhism.
Bill Belichick -- Too small to play football, son of a coach and scout. Uncharismatic, but has been studying film since he was 9 years old. He gained respect by his knowledge of the game. 4 rings as a head coach and 2 as a defensive coordinator.
Jackson was a master of dealing with egos. In the NBA, guys like Kobe, Jordan, Shaq, don't come around very often. So as a head coach, it is much more difficult to have only "your type of guys" if you want to win an NBA championship when compared to the NFL.
When Chicago was going on their 2nd run, they recognized a need for interior defense. After clearing it with Scottie and Michael, they traded for Dennis Rodman and Phil assimilated the enigmatic player into a key piece in the 1996-98 3peat.
To help mold his players and get them to play as a team, Jackson got his team to meditate and made timely book recommendations to players.
He also used the media to send a message to his own team and opponents. By praising another player for his game, he was able to light a fire under Michael Jordan, who felt slighted by the comment.
A famous tactic in practice was to have a intra-squad scrimmage with very uneven teams. He would purposely avoid calling fouls on the weaker team as a way to toughen up the stars and make them deal with fabricated adversity.
In the NFL, players move in and out much faster. Beilchick looked for the his type of guy from the start *.
Belichick has never mastered the media or played many locker room games. He is who he is; what you see is what you get.
Belichick is incredibly precise in everything he does. An epiphany he had early on in his career was that meticulous organization is the key to success.
He is famous for his halftime adjustments and being historically better when playing a QB for the 2nd time in a season. Belichick's first Super Bowl win against the heavily favored Rams was considered by analyst Ron Jaworski as perhaps the greatest coached game in NFL history.
Jackson used the triangle offense, a system that when followed correctly creates a beautiful offensive flow.
While both coaches have very different styles, they are strong believers in the "I before the team" concept.
As a sports fan, I have enjoyed watching them through the years. Reading about them has enhanced my understanding and appreciation of their extraordinary careers.
Comparing them side-by-side, it demonstrates that:
A) There is not a universal "right" way to lead.
B) Personal circumstances can help determine the right leadership style. Winning a ring as a player enabled Phil Jackson instant respect among players and coaches, something that Belichick had to slowly learn over many years.
On the other hand, football is a very precise game with 22 starters as opposed to the NBA with only 5 starters and around 12 total players on a team. To implement a looser style of offense in the NFL with more creative freedom for the players .. it may not work.
Today, Phil Jackson is President of the New York Knicks, who are rebuilding, and Belichick is head coach of the Patriots coming off his latest Super Bowl win.
Time to sit back and enjoy the final stages of their careers.
*There was an exception when he had Lawrence Taylor, arguably the greatest defensive player of all time. He lived by his own rules, and Belichick got the other players to accept it.
For Belichick: The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam.