It turns out “The Last Dance” was almost about a different season.
In an interview with ESPN 104.5 Baton Rouge’s Off The Bench morning show on Monday, Tim Floyd said he was flown to Seattle to talk with Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf about replacing Phil Jackson after the 1995-96 season — a year before “The Last Dance” picked up the saga of disbanding the team as it headed into the 1997-98 season.
Then-Bulls general manager Jerry Krause’s frustrations with then-coach Phil Jackson were boiling over, and Krause wanted to start the rebuild a year early while he could get more value for players contracted through the ’97-98 season.
Floyd said the Bulls flew him to Seattle to meet with Reinsdorf and that the two walked around downtown Seattle discussing the job. He added that Reinsdorf explained that Krause wanted Jackson out, thought Scottie Pippen was breaking down physically and wanted the rebuild to start right away.
“Anyhow, I told Jerry Reinsdorf that day,” Floyd said on the radio show, “I don’t think Jerry [Krause] understands that these guys are basically the Beatles. This is the most popular franchise of all time. I said, ‘If I’m you, I would not do this. Not even the following year. Let it die a natural death because there are certain teams and players that you just don’t break up. I think these guys have earned the right to let it die its own death.'”
At the time, Seattle’s starting center was Ervin Johnson, who had played for Floyd at the University of New Orleans. Floyd said he was flown to Seattle under the guise of visiting his former player instead of being there to meet with the Bulls about the coaching job.
Floyd, who had just finished his second year at Iowa State at the time, flew back to Ames, and he said he received a phone call from Reinsdorf and Krause after the Bulls won their fourth NBA championship.
“Jerry Reinsdorf asked me, ‘Tim, would you tell Jerry Krause what you told me in downtown Seattle about next year?'” Floyd said. “I told Jerry Krause, and he said you don’t understand, I can’t do it. I don’t want to work with Phil again. I said, ‘Why don’t you work downtown and let Phil work out of the other place [facility]?’ Y’all just stay the hell away from each other because it’s working.”
Floyd also gave details on how his relationship with Krause started. It went back to 1988 when Floyd was the coach at UNO.
Krause was scouting Louisiana Tech forward Randy White, who was playing in the American South Conference at the time against UNO. Krause came down to scout White three times, and UNO just happened to be playing Louisiana Tech each of those times — twice in the regular season and once in the conference tournament.
“At the conference tournament, Jerry walked up to me and said ‘You don’t know me but I want to let you know you’re going to be our next head coach,'” Floyd said. “Jerry always had a coach in his pocket. I’m sure if he hired me he was going to have a coach in his pocket that he was going to hire.
“Anyhow, he started calling me. Started out once a week and then the last four or five years, it was every day or twice a day. It was hour-long conversations. The following year, in ’89, he wanted me to fly up to the Bulls’ training camp and wanted me to start running the triangle. I said I’m not doing that, I have no interest in doing that. He just kept on and on and on.”
When the rumors were swirling about Floyd becoming the next head coach of the Bulls, Krause was asked about it at the time and he initially said he was just spending so much time with Floyd because the two were fishing buddies.
But were they?
“And the way that started was that summer he said, ‘I have to get to know you on a personal level if we’re going to do this. So I understand you like to fish, could you teach me how to fish?'” Floyd said. “Basically he flew down to New Orleans and I took him fishing one day and that was the extent of it. Anyhow, he hid behind that in terms of not letting the media know he was going to hire me.”
Floyd finally was hired following the 1997-98 season. But when he went to Chicago, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman were all gone. Floyd did have to keep Jackson’s coaching staff, however, which was a part of Krause’s philosophy to run a “system of play,” which in this case was the triangle offense.
“So Krause decided that the guy that could run a system of play was Tex Winter,” Floyd said. “He was convinced that was the reason they were winning, it wasn’t because of Michael Jordan.
“When I got there, they forced me to run the triangle offense and keep Tex. So Tex worked for me. All of Phil Jackson’s staff, Tex, Bill Cartwright and Frank Hamblin. Tex had convinced Jerry that this offense is so wonderful that Wynken, Blyknken and Nod could be put in it and they’re going to win. Tex, who had a big desire to be in the Hall of Fame, went through one year of us getting our absolute brains beat in and decided that he needed to rejoin Phil in Los Angeles.”
Floyd ended up going 49-190 with the Bulls in four seasons, resigning in the middle of the fourth after starting 4-21. He coached one more season in the NBA — 2003-04 — when he went 41-41 with the New Orleans Hornets and took that team to the playoffs, where they lost in seven games to the Miami Heat. He returned to the college ranks after that and coached at USC and UTEP before retiring in November 2017.
In “The Last Dance” docuseries, a big deal was made about Krause inviting Floyd to Krause’s wedding in the summer of 1997 — but not inviting Jackson. Floyd said he did go to the wedding, but it wasn’t the best time in the world.
“It was totally uncomfortable,” Floyd said. “I didn’t want to go at all.”
Overall, Floyd said, he was happy he made the choice to go to Chicago and called it a “great adventure.”
“I’m glad we did it,” Floyd said, before adding with a laugh. “I was just sick and damn tired of being called Jerry’s fishing buddy.”