Phil Jackson told Time magazine this week that if he were starting a team, his first pick would be Bill Russell.
Jackson, who is promoting his new book "Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success," chose Russell over Michael Jordan.
"In my estimation, the guy that has to be there would be Bill Russell," Jackson said. "He has won 11 championships as a player. That's really the idea of what excellence is, when you win championships."
Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles with Jordan in the 1990s. Russell won his championships with the Boston Celtics in the 1950s and '60s.
Jackson won five more NBA titles as a coach with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000s.
Jackson wrote in his book that Jordan was a better leader, defensive player and shooter than Lakers star Kobe Bryant, whom he coached in Los Angeles. However, he backed off that stance when asked by Time which player is better.
"I would flip a coin," Jackson said. "Whichever one came up heads or tails, I'd take that person. They were that good."