Before the 2016-17 season, Phil Jackson was considered one of the worst executives in the NBA. As the New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations, Phil has put himself in a new role that he is not used to, just like Pat Riley was when he first became the Miami Heat's team President. So the critics need to back off and let him do his job, it takes time. You cannot turn a struggling NBA team into a Finals contender overnight, it takes time, planning, and coaching.
How did Phil react to being considered a horrible executive? He went out last summer and started signing players that could help the Knicks right away while building up their roster in the process. He signed Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Brandon Jennings, and Mason Plumlee and then traded for Derrick Rose, who, when healthy, is one of the best all-around point guards in the NBA. He has just had issues staying healthy over the past few seasons and has not played a full schedule since the 2010-11 season. But the gamble is paying off so far this season and the Knicks are among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Before Phil was an executive, he was a head coach for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. He had the honor of coaching Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant. He led those teams to a combined 11 NBA Titles and it has made him one of the greatest head coaches in league history.
But even with such an amazing resume, Phil Jackson had to coach some awful players and we are not just talking about a player that was bad for one season and found success elsewhere. These players were awful from the start to the end of their NBA career's.
These are the 15 worst players Phil Jackson has ever had the displeasure of coaching.
15 Sasha Vujacic, SG (Los Angeles Lakers)
After playing a few years for the Italian professional basketball team, Snaidero Udine, in the Lega Basket League, Sasha Vujacic started to gain a reputation for his outstanding talents in a very difficult European league. He was only 17 years old when he signed on with the Udine and within three years he was averaging 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and 2.3 assists per game. The Lakers were ready to draft him and hope he would translate that into a career in the NBA.
The biggest issues he had was that he is a Shooting Guard in Los Angeles where the Lakers already have one, Kobe Bryant. So he would be relegated to a backup role, coming off the bench, and it did not go well as he averaged 4.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists during his seven years in LA. His best year was four years after he joined the team and it was just a little too late for him in LA and it was time to move on.
14 Will Perdue, C (Chicago Bulls)
When he was in college playing for the Vanderbilt Commodores, Will Perdue became one of the greatest Centers in school history and even won the SEC Player of the Year award in 1988 after he averaged 18.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game during his senior year. Those numbers were up from his impressive Junior season when he did almost the same thing scoring 17.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks that season.
So the Bulls decided to draft him in the first round of the 1988 NBA Draft with their 11th overall selection. Something must have happened following the draft because he became a backup that was nothing more than 5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds a night. He was best used for his defense but he never played during the clutch moments where they could have really used him.
Regardless, Will Perdue played his first seven years in the NBA with the Bulls and returned in 1999 to play one more, for a total of eight seasons. He walked away from the NBA with four championship rings because of it.
13 Brian Cook, PF (Los Angeles Lakers)
Brian Cook was never a true, old-school, Power Forward in the NBA. He was 6'9" and could shoot from anywhere on the court, especially from outside the perimeter. He was never going to average double digit rebounds or assists, just points. He was a big man that could score but he was not brought in to be a scorer because the Lakers already had two guys that took enough shots and scored enough points to keep other shoot-first players away.
So he never became much of anything during his time under Phil Jackson because he was looking to shoot the ball before playing defense and the Lakers wanted him to backup Shaquille O'Neal but that was the wrong way to use him. The Lakers had very little options because of busts like Kwame Brown that never really played to their potential.
12 Dickey Simpkins, PF (Chicago Bulls)
Phil Jackson and the Chicago Bulls front office must have seen something in Dickey Simpkins that no one else did when they drafted him in the first round of the 1994 draft. He was a Power Forward coming from Providence, where he got progressively better in his four years at the college. He averaged 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and just under a block per game. He was a leader on his team and the Bulls must have saw a future star Forward in him.
But he quickly showed them that the NCAA is very different from the NBA and he would average around 3.0 points and 2.0 rebounds per game during his first tenure with the Bulls. He did manage to start 12 games during the 1995-96 season but still did not put up much of anything to earn himself a permanent spot in the lineup, or the rotation. He returned to them in 1997 and picked himself up and grabbed another NBA title to finish his career with three total rings.
11 Jud Buechler, SF (Chicago Bulls)
Like most of the players that make it to the NBA, Jud Buechler was a very talented star in college when he played at the University of Arizona, along with another Bulls player, Steve Kerr. As a Wildcat, Buechler put up 14.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in his senior season which was enough for him to be drafted by the Seattle Sonics in the second round of the 1990 draft.
By the time he got to Chicago, he was a role playing bench player that turned out to help the Bulls a few times during their second three-peat. Was it enough to consider him as a big reason the Bulls won those titles, no. He was just at the right place, at the right time, for a few games to help them get some extra wins.
10 Scott Williams, C (Chicago Bulls)
When Scott Williams signed with the Chicago Bulls, in 1990 after going undrafted, it proved that perseverance and hardwork is something that pays off in time. He could have given up on his love for the game during his sophomore season at the University of North Carolina when his father murdered his mother and then himself at his childhood home. He could have given up but he kept playing and eventually followed Michael Jordan's path from UNC to the Bulls.
Unfortunately, he spent four seasons in Chicago barely playing 14 minutes a game. He put up 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game as a Bull and benefited from the incredible run they had in the early 90's, winning three NBA Championships. He was never a problem for Phil Jackson, he just never got much better in his first four seasons in Chicago to remain a Bull.
9 Bill Wennington, C (Chicago Bulls)
When Bill Wennington started his career in the NBA, he played for the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings before leaving the league in 1991 to play in Europe with the Virtus Bologna, an Italian pro team. He would return to the NBA just in time for the Chicago Bulls first three-peat in 1993 when they signed him as a free agent.
As a member of the Chicago Bulls title train, he was awarded three NBA Title rings making him one of the luckiest players in NBA history having played less than 14 minutes per game and averaging just around 5.0 points a night and still winning that many titles. He was best known for the McDonald's burger that was sold around Chicago McDonald's called the Beef Wennington.
8 Rory Sparrow, PG (Chicago Bulls)
Throughout his entire career, Rory Sparrow was a consistently good point guard averaging around 9.0 points and 5.0 assists per game. However, in the two seasons he played for the Bulls, the 1987-88 and 1991-92 seasons, he was barely a factor and only put up 4.3 points and 2.8 assists per game. For whatever the reason, he had his worst years with the Bulls and under coach Phil Jackson.
It is just one of those things that are not easy to explain. It could have been the playcalling, coaching, or just how he was being used that kept Rory Sparrow from performing anywhere close to where he did everywhere else. He also moved around the league and played for the Knicks, Heat, Kings, Hawks, Nets, and Lakers.
7 Adam Morrison, SF (Los Angeles Lakers)
In 2006, the best player in collegiate basketball was Adam Morrison. The Gonzaga Forward was a big part of the team's tournament run's throughout the beginning of the new millennium. He averaged 28.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game in his final season as a Bulldog. Not to mention, he shot 42.8% from beyond the three-point line and was the true heart and soul of that team. He was an easy choice for one of the top three picks of the 2006 NBA Draft.
He showed signs of greatness in his rookie year with the Charlotte Bobcats but then his shotting started to dip and he was eventually benched. The following year, he began battling injuries including tearing his ACL which meant he was done with his career in Charlotte. Phil Jackson ended up gambling and traded for him in 2009. Adam barely played in his two seasons in Los Angeles and eventually played in Europe after his NBA career ended.
6 Mark Madsen, C (Los Angeles Lakers)
From his Sophomore season to his Senior year at Stanford, Mark Madsen became a dominate Forward and averaged 12.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game and ended up finishing his career ranked near the top of the school's all time blocks and rebound leaders. But his biggest accomplishment was in 1998 when he led the Cardinals to the Final Four. He was also a two time All-American in college.
The Lakers had the 29th pick of the 2000 NBA Draft and decided to grab the big man and hope he would be a solid backup for Shaquille O'Neal but the only thing he was known for was his terrible dancing during the Lakers Championship parades each year. He only averaged 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds a game which is almost completely useless for a backup Center and former first round draft pick.
5 Jo Jo English, SG (Chicago Bulls)
Remember the brawl at Palace at Auburn Hills in which Ron Artest went into the stands to fight with fan that threw a drink on him following a fight on the court which resulted in the game being cancelled and suspensions being given out like gift cards at Christmas?
Before that happened, there was another brawl that went into the stands, but this was not with a fan, between Jo Jo English and Derek Harper during the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals. It cleared both benches and ended up carrying over into the stands costing each player a few games.
That is the only thing anyone can remember him for during his NBA career and that is not something a player wants to be remembered for.
4 Jack Haley, PF/C (Chicago Bulls)
The Chicago Bulls drafted UCLA's starting Center, Jack Haley, in the fourth round of the 1987 NBA Draft. With Reggie Miller, Dave Immel, Chrles Rochelin, and Pooh Richardson, the UCLA Bruins had a great season winning the Pac-10 and the Pac-10 conference tournament before losing to Wyoming in the tournament. Jack was a big contributor but he was never a stat scoring machine having only averaged 5.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in his final season. So what did Phil Jackson and the Bulls see in him?
No one is really sure but Jack was not drafted to be their next starting Center, he was more of a role player that would do all the right things when on the court. But he never grew into anything more than a bench player with serious knee problems that hurt him throughout his entire career. He came back long enough during the 1995-96 season to play in one game and claim a piece of the Bulls NBA Championship that year.
3 Stanislav Medvedenko, PF (Los Angeles Lakers)
The worst thing to happen to the Lakers offense, under Phil Jackson, was Stanislav Medvedenko. He was a big man that would shoot first, think later. He was not in a place where he could play that way. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were in LA at the time and were scorers. Slava needed to help the team as an overall player but he failed to play defense, ever.
He was built like a Center but played like a Shooting Guard and even when Phil Jackson returned to the Lakers, after missing the 2004-05 season, Slava battled injury after injury until he eventually had to finish out his career with the Atlanta Hawks after the Lakers waived him during the 2006 season. He does have one NBA Finals ring for the 2001-02 season, but that is hardly because of anything he did during his time in LA.
2 Smush Parker, PG (Los Angeles Lakers)
Although he was never drafted, Smush Parker worked himself into a contract with the Cleveland Cavs a year before they drafted LeBron James. He then started moving around between the NBA and Greece before finally landing a spot with the Lakers. He even worked his way into becoming the team's starting Point Guard and put up some solid numbers, averaging 11.6 points per game during his 162 consecutive starts before being replaced by Jordan Farmer.
His biggest downfall was his attitude. He had several issues with teammates and coaches including the time he deliberately did not pass to Kobe Bryant because he did not like the man for whatever reason. It got so bad that even Kobe came out and talked about Smush in the NBA and said, "...shouldn't have been in the NBA, but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard."
1 Kwame Brown, C (Los Angeles Lakers)
By the time he was traded to the Lakers, Kwame Brown had already grown a reputation for being a bust. His best season in 2003-04, with the Wizards, when he scored 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, not the type of numbers you would expect from a No.1 overall draft pick that was supposed to be the future of the league.
In LA, Kwame Brown averaged 26.6 minutes, 7.4 points, 6.2 points, and less than a block per game. He did manage to get 91 starts over his two and a half years with the Lakers and still put up pedestrian numbers that are not what he was expected to produce when he got into the NBA. Phil Jackson started Kwame when others were hurt but when Brown had a chance to take over the Center position, he failed and Andrew Bynum took over instead.
The main reason Kwame lasted as long as he did in LA was because of Kobe Bryant. Kobe had his back no matter what happened and always defended him, even when the home crowd booed. The Lakers traded him to the Grizzlies for Pau Gasol.