Opinion: Tim Floyd offers insight on ‘The Last Dance,’ replacing Phil Jackson as Bulls coach

Tim Floyd didn’t chase a legend out of the Windy City. Jerry Krause did.

It wasn’t the former Iowa State coach’s fault the Chicago Bulls failed miserably during his 3½ seasons on a bench once occupied by Phil Jackson. General manager Krause ruined the Bulls, not Floyd.

Replacing a coach that won six NBA championships in the 1990s …

OK, agreeing to do that was on Floyd, but when you get the NBA itch and the money that goes with it — you scratch.

I don’t know how “The Last Dance” documentary will portray Floyd, who followed Jackson after the championship run was complete. If it’s all negative, then that’s fine, considering a coach’s worth is based on win-lost records.

But there were extenuating circumstances beyond what Tim Floyd could do.

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He didn’t watch Sunday’s first episode. He watched only the first few minutes of the second “because our power went out in a storm,” he said.

Both installments Sunday night brought back memories of a great team with a great player named Michael crashing after the 1997-98 season. I scanned The Register’s archives to recall stories about an Iowa State coach being rumored for a while to become the next Bulls coach. I needed a refresher before my Monday conversation with Floyd. When we talked, Floyd told me stuff I’d either forgotten or hadn’t yet been reported.

Floyd to the Bulls, 10 years before it happened

Let’s go back a few years to 1989, when Randy White played at Louisiana Tech and Floyd coached at the University of New Orleans. That’s when this Floyd-to-the-Bulls stuff actually started.

“Jerry Krause saw us beat Randy’s team three times,” Floyd said. “After the third time, Jerry came up to me and said that he didn’t know me well, but he knew enough to know that he wanted me to be the next coach of the Chicago Bulls.

“That was 10 years before it happened. I was flattered, but I had a team to coach and the Bulls had Phil. Jerry called me once a week until 1993. Then he started calling five times a week. He was calling all the time.”

I don’t know if that’s part of the documentary, nor did I know this story Floyd told me.

Rebuilding the Bulls after the 1997 title?

Not so fast.

“Jerry wanted to blow it up,” Floyd said. “He and Phil weren’t hitting it off. Jerry was convinced that the team had nothing left, and he wanted to get value for those guys.”

He wanted to start over again with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Steve Kerr, among others. He wanted to go young in a league full of veteran stars.

Floyd was Krause’s choice to get it done. Krause and Jackson weren’t getting along. Krause wanted to nuke the organization. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf called Floyd some time after winning the title against Utah.

“(Reinsdorf) got all three of us on the phone at the same time, and I said that I didn’t think it was a good idea to blow up the team,” Floyd said. “I suggested letting it die a natural death.”

Anyhow, he was coaching Iowa State. He had a very good job, and at that time, he also said he had head coaching feelers from Tennessee, LSU and Ohio State after leading the Cyclones to a 47-20 record and NCAA tournament appearances in his first two seasons. He could have gone elsewhere, but he stayed, leading the Cyclones to the Sweet 16 in 1997.

Meanwhile, Krause still had tension with Jackson but finally was coaxed into keeping the team together one more season.

“It was kind of the last dance,” Floyd said.

The rest was predictable

The Bulls ended the 1997-98 season with their third title in a row. Jackson left. So did Jordan. Krause traded Pippen and Kerr. Floyd, who led the Cyclones to three 20-win seasons and a Sweet 16, became the coach. His job started midway through a season that began with a lockout.

“I would have liked to have coached Michael, Scottie and Dennis,” Floyd said. “They wanted me to run the triangle offense, which I had to do. After a year of running it with Wink-em, Blink-em and Nod, compared to the players they traded, (assistant coach) Tex Winters left to go to the Lakers.

“You don’t just automatically replace the great players we didn’t have any longer. We were the first team to go young. Now, all teams are young. Krause wanted to rebuild through the draft in a league were players were between 25 and 35. We were babies.”

Floyd resigned 3½ years after succeeding Jackson with a 49-190 record. He left with three seasons remaining on his contract. He was owed $6.4 million more.

Floyd said he probably won’t watch the final eight episodes of “The Last Dance.” Fish are biting outside his lake home in Southern Mississippi.

“I feel like I know more than the story,” Floyd told me. “I guess it depends how bored I am.”

Randy Peterson is a columnist for The Des Moines Register, part of the USA TODAY Network.

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