Tim Floyd sets record straight on Bulls experience
With the recent “Last Dance” documentary on the great Michael Jordan era with the Chicago Bulls, there was quite a bit of content related to the final year of the dynasty (1997-98 season) and the transition that was to take place as Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson and others exited stage right.
Tim Floyd was chosen to replace Jackson as head coach with a total rebuilding effort required.
The job would have been difficult, if not impossible for virtually anyone but it was particularly near impossible and full of land mines to succeed a legend and to do as a college coach who had never coached in the NBA.
“I guess I grew more in the area of patience,” Floyd said. “The reactions from the players were tough. If you go at it like a college coach and you’re confronting every possession over the course of an 82-game season, those guys don’t really receive that real well. I got to where I started coaching by counting to 10. Every time I saw a mistake, I just counted 1001, 1002 and let some things roll off your back. I never was real comfortable with the losing.”
Floyd was particularly troubled by having little or no input into formulating the roster he would coach.
“I never was real comfortable that you couldn’t put your own roster together,” Floyd said. “I kind of thought they would listen to you if you just went to them and told them that this guy just flat couldn’t play but they came back with the idea that you just needed to be patient. That part of it was very, very difficult. You learn from NBA actions. You learn from plays. You don’t practice like you do as a college coach. You play two games a week in college. There (NBA), you’re playing four and five days.”
The Bulls had a double whammy lined up against any chance of success.
“We were of the youngest teams in the history of the NBA,” Floyd said. “The payroll had gone from $77 million down to $23 million. If you’re either the lowest salary cap team or the youngest team in the league, either one, you’re going to lose. We were both.”
Floyd talked about how difficult it was to experience losing personally.
“It was tough confronting a team after a loss, confronting a team down 15 after a half, getting ready to go to practice every day after they had lost three in a row,” Floyd said. “Seeing the media three times a day on game day for 20 minutes during the shoot-around, 20 minutes before the game, 20 minutes after the game. When the losses pile up, there’s only so many things you can say without it looking like excuses and not turning on your players.”
Jerry Krause was responsible for bringing Floyd to the Bulls. How that occurred is commonly misconstrued.
“One thing that people probably aren’t really aware of, what actually happened, I was portrayed as his fishing buddy,” Floyd said. “That couldn’t have been any more false than what actually happened. In our first year at the University of New Orleans in 1988, ten years before I went to work there (Chicago), we had the smallest team in the United States. We played Louisiana Tech three times that year and Louisiana Tech was comprised of P.J. Brown, they had a guy named Randy White, who was a Dallas Mavericks lottery pick and they were big.”
That is when fate intervened.
“Jerry Krause scouted Randy White three times thinking he was going to be the next Karl Malone and they all happened to be against our teams. We were fortunate enough to have won all of those games. Jerry walked up to me after the game in the conference tournament and introduced himself and said ‘I just want to let you know you’re going to be our next head coach one day.’ I just kind of blew it off and dismissed it. I thought it was really nice, a little over the top. He started calling me once a week from 1988 to about 1993.”
The relationship deepened.
“From about 1993 to about 1998, he started calling me about four or five times a week,” Floyd said. “I was really privy to everything that was going on during “The Last Dance.” I knew all of the stories and what was really transpiring prior to going there.”
Despite the lure, Floyd had his doubts.
“I wasn’t really sure if I was going to do it up until two days before I took the job,” Floyd said. “I had other opportunities during that same time frame in the college game, things that were back down south, places where I might have a chance to win a national title, LSU being one of them. I just ended up again being a money-grubbing capitalist that I was. I knew at that time, the pro jobs were paying a lot more than college jobs. The pro money was guaranteed. I felt like I owed to my family being in my early 40’s knowing that I could take that risk, that it probably wouldn’t work out following Phil.”
Floyd knew the possibility of failing with Chicago was large.
“Because it was the Bulls and because it was such a brand, when it didn’t work out, I would probably be able to get a better job than I had at Iowa State at that time and that’s pretty much how things went,” Floyd said.
Floyd assessed the balance of his 41-year coaching career.
“I felt like I was really an average coach who had above average assistants, who had above average players,” Floyd said. “We got very, very fortunate with Ervin Johnson walking into our office. It really changed my life, changed my career. I just had a great time doing it. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I loved, loved to be in a gym. I loved to coach and teach. I loved to try to get players outside of their comfort zone and try to get them better even if they were mad at me. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…