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Floyd Coming to the Bulls

Pro basketball: Coach resigns at Iowa State, but Jordan had said he wouldn't play for him.

July 23, 1998| From Associated Press

CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls are calling Michael Jordan's bluff, hiring the coach he said he wouldn't play for: Tim Floyd.

The next move is up to Jordan.

Floyd will join the Bulls for a news conference today. A source told The Associated Press he is coming as coach, and ESPN also reported Wednesday that, according to an NBA source, Floyd would become coach. WMAQ radio reported that Floyd will be named director of basketball operations, with the coach to be determined later.

Floyd arrived in Chicago on Wednesday morning, a few hours after resigning at Iowa State.

"I really can't comment any further right now," Floyd said. The Bulls also refused to confirm Floyd's hiring.

Iowa State athletic director Gene Smith said Floyd was leaving "to pursue another opportunity with the Chicago Bulls." Asked if Floyd would be the coach, Smith said: "You're going to have to ask the Chicago Bulls about that."

As the Bulls' coach-in-waiting the past two years, Floyd's hiring hardly comes as a surprise. But Jordan's dislike of Floyd is no secret, either, saying just last week that he wouldn't play for him.

"I don't know Tim. I don't have anything against Tim Floyd," Jordan said July 16. "To [play for him] is like starting all over again and that's what I don't want to do. He may want to do that, but I don't.

"I don't condemn him. I don't condemn [the Bulls] for hiring him," Jordan added. "But I just don't feel that I want to start with someone who doesn't really know me and doesn't know the way I play the game of basketball."

Jordan won't make an official announcement about his future until the NBA lockout ends, and Floyd's hiring won't change that, said David Falk, Jordan's agent. The NBA lockout bars the Bulls -- and their new coach -- from having any direct contact with Jordan.

Jordan was playing golf at a country club in suburban Chicago on Wednesday and did not react publicly to news of Floyd's hiring.

"Michael needs to take his time to see how all of the pieces fall into place," Falk said. "We only have one piece of the picture. It may be that piece is of sufficient weight to outweigh everything else. Only time will tell."

A fishing buddy of general manager Jerry Krause, Floyd was the top candidate to replace Phil Jackson long before Jackson left. That alone was enough to earn the scorn of Jordan, who derisively calls him "Pink," as in the rock group Pink Floyd.

Jordan made it clear he didn't want to play for anyone but Jackson. But relations between Jackson and the Bulls' management were strained, at best, and Jackson announced his resignation a week after Chicago won its sixth NBA title in eight years.

"I think he needs to step back from all the events of the season and all the political events surrounding the team and decide what he wants to do," Falk said of Jordan. "He's earned the right after what he's brought to the team and the city and the game of basketball to do whatever brings him joy and satisfaction."

The Bulls also interviewed NBA assistants Scott Skiles, Ron Rothstein, Paul Silas and Rick Carlisle, but the job was thought to be Floyd's to turn down. Though he has no NBA coaching experience, the 44-year-old has a solid track record on the college level. Iowa State's 12-18 record last year was his first losing season in 12 years as a head coach.

Floyd is 243-130 overall with five NCAA tournament appearances. He was 81-47 in his four years at Iowa State and was runner-up for the AP's national coach of the year in 1995-96, when the Cyclones finished 24-9, despite losing four starters.

"I think it would be a shock to anyone close to the scene had Tim Floyd not been hired," Falk said. "This was a decision that was made a year ago."

What will happen to the rest of the Bulls' staff isn't clear. Krause told Frank Hamblen and two other assistants that whether they stay on or not will be up to the new coach.

There were reports Floyd was having cold feet over accepting the Bulls job, possibly because of Jordan's insistence that he'd rather retire than play for Floyd. If Jordan does retire, Floyd will have the unenviable position of being characterized -- fairly or unfairly -- as the man who drove perhaps the game's greatest player into retirement.

"Everyone knows the story of the toad that got the princess to kiss him, so hopefully it will work out," reserve center Bill Wennington, also a free agent, said at a basketball camp Wednesday.

Other players also have a decision to make. Of Chicago's 12-man playoff roster, nine are free agents. Scottie Pippen, who's long felt undervalued and underappreciated by the Bulls, said repeatedly during the season that he'd play somewhere else when he became a free agent this summer. Dennis Rodman called the possibility of hiring Floyd "a joke."

Floyd played three years at Louisiana Tech and served as a student assistant coach his senior year. Floyd's father, Lee, was the basketball coach at Southern Mississippi, but didn't want his son to go into coaching.

"He wanted me to be a dentist, a doctor," Floyd said in a 1996 interview. "But coaching was always in the back of my mind because of my father."

His first head coaching job was at Idaho, where he served for two seasons with a 35-25 record. He had a 127-58 mark in six seasons at the University of New Orleans, where his team reached the NCAA tournament in 1991 and 1993.

He accepted the Iowa State job in spring 1994, only to call a news conference at New Orleans to announce he was staying. He later changed his mind again, taking the job at Iowa State in May 1994.

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