Bulls general manager Jerry Krause and coach Phil Jackson spent years at odds. Even as Chicago won championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998, Krause was eager to move onto the next era. By spring of 1997, it was publicly known Krause wanted Tim Floyd to succeed Jackson as coach.
Of course, Jackson lasted one more season – guiding Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman to another title. That’s why we have “The Last Dance” documentary now.
Krause finally got his way and hired Floyd in 1998.
But Floyd could have gone to Chicago even earlier than that known 1997 dalliance. Twice.
In 1988-89, Floyd coached the University of New Orleans to a 19-11 record his first season there. New Orleans went 2-1 against Louisiana Tech, which had a player – Randy White* – Krause was scouting.
*The Bulls picked Stacey King No. 6 in the 1989 NBA draft. White went No. 8 to the Mavericks.
Floyd on “Off The Bench:”
Jerry Krause came up to me at the end of that season – I had never met him – and told me, he said, “Look, I’m Jerry Krause of the Chicago Bulls, and I just want to let you know that you’re going to be our next head coach.”
Anyhow, he started calling me. It started out once a week from that point on and then it ended up, the last four or five years, it ended up being every day and sometimes twice a day. It would hour-long conversations.
In 1989, the following year, he wanted me to fly up to the Bulls’ training camp and wanted me to start running the triangle offense. And I said, “No, I’m not doing that. I’ve got no interest in doing that.” And so he just kept on and on and on.
Chicago fired Doug Collins in 1989. With Floyd resisting, Jackson got promoted from assistant coach to head coach.
Jackson proved be one of the greatest coaches of all time, helping Jordan and the Bulls to six titles. But Floyd still loomed.
In 1996, the Bulls won their fourth championship by beating the SuperSonics in the NBA Finals. Seattle had a center, Ervin Johnson, who played for Floyd at New Orleans. Krause wanted Floyd to meet Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf. So, Krause arranged for Floyd – then at Iowa State – to fly to Seattle under the guise of just watching Johnson.
We’re walking around downtown, and he basically said, “Look, Krause wants Phil gone this year. He thinks that, Jerry, Pippen is breaking down, his back. He thinks that this team has run its course. He doesn’t want to overpay these players as they’re coming up on their contract years. He wants to move them before their contracts are up, 97-98, while we can still get value for them, and he can start to rebuild.
I told Jerry Reinsdorf that day walking around downtown, I said, “Jerry, I’m not sure Jerry Krause understands these guys are basically the Beatles and this is the most popular franchise of all time.” And I said, “If I’m you, I would not do this. And I would not do this maybe not even the following year.” I said, “Let it die its own natural death, because there are certain players and certain teams that you just don’t break up. And I think that these guys have earned the right to let it die its own death.”
Even after the 1996 title, the Bulls’ future remained uncertain. Reinsdorf and Krause called Floyd.
Jerry Reinsdorf said, “Tim, would you tell Jerry Krause what you told me in downtown Seattle about next year?” And I told Jerry Krause, and he said, “I can’t do it. You don’t understand. I don’t want to work with Phil again.” And so I said, “Well, why don’t you just do this? Why don’t you work downtown and let Phil work out at the other place. Y’all just stay the hell away from each other, because it’s working.”
Reinsdorf kept Jackson, and the Bulls won another title in 1998. Then, Reinsdorf got his way, hiring Floyd and dismantling the championship core in the offseason.
Floyd’s tenure was dismal. Chicago went 49-190 during his three-plus seasons. Though the roster was ill-equipped to win, Floyd didn’t positively distinguish himself.
But maybe he deserves a little credit in Bulls lore for staying out of the way and letting a dynasty unfold.