Phil Jackson on Jordan, an infamous distraction in the final and the death of a dynasty

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I felt very confident before the third game because I think we are a very good team for the road playoffs. At home, there is the stress of family, people arriving to see the players, requests for tickets. On the road, there are fewer distractions. It’s just the team and our mission to win. And on the road, there is the reality of doing or dying.

Michael has a great attitude on the road. He is fair ready. He goes up a bit on the players and the team follows his example. On the morning shoot, he let the guys know that we didn’t want to take any risks, with injuries or anything else. You can’t stop in a short streak because too much can go wrong. We need rest and preparation for the next round. The playoffs become an endurance test. They are very tiring, not so much physically as mentally and emotionally.

So Michael became fierce at the shootaround. A few guys made mistakes in offensive formations and some of the special games we were playing. Michael has been very hard on Scott Burrell, and Burrell said, “Mike, I’m trying to do my best. But Michael continued to stay on and prepared for Scott, and in that match, Burrell had 23 points.

Michael had his rhythm in this match. He got out early on the field and I said, “Hit Steve! Because Kerr was wide open for a three pointer. But Michael set his own three on fire and entered. During the next time-out, he said, “I heard you, but I felt really good. “And that’s how it feels. Believe it. Do you feel you can’t miss? Then shoot. Michael sometimes gets like this. Remember the first game in the championship series against Portland, when he hit six of his first seven three points? I will never forget him.

Scottie Pippen had a great ground game in Game 3, but was tripped in the first half and injured his lower back where he had surgery. He never started his attacking game because of that, but his total rebounds, assists and defense kept us going. Scott Burrell had nine consecutive shots after a missed opening, and that was the difference.

There were few players on whom Jordan was harder than marksman Scott Burrell, who joined the Bulls in the 1997-1998 campaign, the last season of the dynasty. Steve Woltmann / NBAE via Getty Images

AS I WRITE this, I think there were things written in the first episode of this newspaper (The Magazine, May 4) that were misinterpreted and out of character. I make this journal more as a souvenir of the season than as a way to discuss my professional future or other coaches. The comments provoked a lot of questioning, hurt feelings and rebuttals. I have to set the record straight.

My comments on the Lakers and Del Harris, for example. I was in no way lobbying for a job. I believe in triangle or triple post-crime, and I sometimes watch other teams and think about what they could do according to their principles. In fact, I think Del Harris handled the anger situation I talked about rather well. He was not intimidated and he did not intimidate or reprimand Shaq. Charlotte has players who would also complete a triangular attack, with good shooters and good passers-by. They have Glen Rice and Dell Curry, guys who can shoot well without having to dribble to create a shot. And they have Anthony Mason and Vlade Divac, guys who can hold the block and pass to open the players.

As a coach, you look at things like that. Denver, for example, has had a disastrous year, but they have Bryant Stith, who can shoot, and LaPhonso Ellis, who can hold the block and is a very good post-up player. The secondary triangular offense needs mature, selfless players and the NBA is running out of them.

Another point of clarification: the schedule of coaching interviews that I have discussed with Seattle and New York has been misinterpreted. I was referring to how I got back into coaching. I spoke in Seattle when Lenny Wilkens was general manager there in 1986. I spoke to the Knicks in 1987 about an assistant’s job when Rick Pitino was head coach.

This spring, there was speculation about my going to Detroit to train, and because of that, I watched their staff. Any coach would do that. I think they have players who would integrate very well into our attacking system. But they made their choice; they have a trainer, Alvin Gentry, they’re ready, and that’s it.


More on “The Last Dance”


NBA A to be really satisfied with the competitiveness of the first round series, especially in the West, where Seattle and Utah, the first and second seeded teams, were pushed to the limit. However, the Miami-New York series adopted a physical attitude similar to that of last year, in particular the fight which took place with 1.4 seconds to play in match 4. It is a shame for the league. Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson got into it because of a little history they go back to when they were teammates at Charlotte. It’s a real black mark. I watched Pat Riley step out of the court with Mourning, his most valued player, knowing that Mourning was gone for game 5. Pat wondered what Alonzo was doing. There is really no excuse for this. The goal is the most global – to win. Price is the important thing, not your little rivalries or personal insults.

I noticed that the Pacers and the Hornets were shaving their heads in solidarity in the other series. But I wish white people would use this instant tan for their heads. Smits, Divac, Mullin – they look like light bulbs – on the ground. It will never happen with us. We started black shoes in the playoffs in the 80s, and that’s about as far as we will go with that.

We wear black socks with black shoes. But the NBA manages the equipment! The last problem was that the white ankle band was visible, so players had to have a black band to be in code. Each variation – bracelets, socks, compression tights, headbands – requires no logo and complete uniformity.

We will try to let our room show our unity.

After mowing the conference’s first round and semifinals in the spring of 1998, the Bulls faced Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference final. Chicago shared its season streak with Indiana 2-2. Andy Hayt / NBAE via Getty Images

This is the third installment in Phil Jackson’s journal about what he believes to be his last season as coach of the Bulls. -R.T.

Tuesday May 5: We swept the Nets and beat the Hornets in Game 1 of the conference semifinals, and now people are saying that we will sweep the playoffs. This is not how we see ourselves. We are no longer as dominant, nor as deep, and we are certainly not young. Still, we feel confident against Charlotte. We beat them Sunday, 83-70, but we didn’t look good. We’re used to going wrong at the United Center because it’s so big. That’s why we have Dennis Rodman to clean up our misses.

Wednesday May 6: My day started off badly – I had to do my morning meditation on a chair instead of my usual position on the floor because my knee was hurting so much. And the day ended badly, with Dell Curry and our former teammate, B.J. Armstrong, beating us in the fourth quarter. B.J. made the winning jump with less than 20 seconds to go, then drew his fist as he passed our bench. We didn’t like being bothered by a former Bull.

Thursday May 7: In a pre-training video session, I showed the first three quarters so the players could see how we kept the Hornets coming back. Michael said, “I’m going to start keeping the point guards, and Harp is going to take Bobby Phills. “We never talked specifically about B.J. fighting, we just watched it. It was enough.

Friday May 8: What a busy day! We’re in Charlotte, and on the bus ride to our shoot, GM assistant Jim Stack tells me that Jerry Reinsdorf just gave a long interview on the future of the club, and don’t be surprised if the media is all over me. They were five years deep, asking, “Are you really solely responsible for the Bulls’ breakup? I deflected them, saying, “We have a very important game tonight, and if we don’t win the championship, everything is theoretical. Yes, it’s time for me to take a little time. The only thing management could have said that would have made a difference is, “Stay until Michael is finished, so we can be sure to find him until he retires.” But that was never suggested. We won tonight, 103-89, to go up 2-1. But all I could think of was, “Why are these heartbreaking stories just happening in our most difficult times? Is it so that we can meet the challenge?

The revolutionary sports analysis program returns with a historic edition released in conjunction with “The Last Dance” on ESPN. The five-episode series explores the Chicago Bulls of 1998 and features episodes hosted by Phil Jackson, Dennis Rodman and Steve Kerr. Watch on ESPN +

Saturday May 9: We trained at 9:30 am, and the problem is that Michael has too much time to play golf. I always tell the guys that MJ has a portable golf course in his basement and that he hits balls all day so that his golfing movement is not an unusual strain on his body. If he is not watched, he will get 45 or 54 holes in one day. It’s like his Zen, his moment to get away from it all. Our reception and our coaching staff went out to dinner together on Saturday evening; now I’m going with one group, and Jerry Krause is going with another. Tex Winter is sort of the bridge between the two. We went out separately this evening, but the two groups ended up at the Palm restaurant. We just had to smile at the situation. Krause offered to recover our tab, but I refused because I wanted to take care of my server. My brother Joe, who is a psychologist and who was with me at dinner, told me later that there must be some way to disarm the two camps. “Your book was about how to resolve conflicts,” he said. Winning doesn’t resolve the split, so I’ll be looking for a creative way to break the spell. There must be another way.

Monday May 11: We lead the Hornets 3-1 after winning yesterday. I still worry about how we perform at the United Center. Sometimes I think it’s the hour and a half trip some guys have. They arrive at the game and they doze. It’s not a good excuse, but it’s pretty much the only one I have. Michael is in a better mood and has had good laughs lately. He came to train today – just a movie – wearing his pants and golf shirt under his jersey and training shorts. It was funny, but I never made a comment. He was sitting there and I never said a word.

Friday May 15: We finished Charlotte 93-84 on Wednesday and now we are thinking of Indiana. We all watched the Pacers beat the Knicks last Sunday when Reggie Miller’s miraculous three-point shot came in and extended. We now know what our job is.

Sunday May 17: It was Dennis’s birthday week. He was partying, and that’s why he was late to train this week. But that’s not why I made the decision not to start it today. We just wanted Dennis to focus on Antonio Davis, who was such a key off the bench. It was not a punishment.

The Pacers have really strengthened their defense since Larry Bird and Dick Harter entered. They jump you on the screen and roll and make it almost impossible to drive the lane. We escaped the first today, 85-79. We were lucky. And the journey continues.

Phil Jackson had a lot of experience playing at the Delta Center in Utah. The Bulls had beaten Jazz in six games in the 1997 NBA Finals. Yet Jazz fans have not made it easy, said Jackson. “Noise really goes beyond the realm of tolerance. ” Andy Hayt / NBAE via Getty Images

Phil Jackson was sitting in a quiet corner of a Chicago suburban bookstore, looking happy and rested. He had just coached the Bulls for their sixth NBA title in eight years, and in a few days would tell the world that he was resigning. Then he went on vacation to Turkey with his wife, June, and his friend and former teammate Bill Bradley and his wife, Ernestine. But first, he would conclude his playoff journal with The magazine. – R.T.

AT THE END in three years, we have won 205 regular season games. Someone told me it was more than any other NBA team in three years. But the most important thing is what you do in the end, the distance covered in the playoffs. All we really wanted was our third championship in three years.

We arrived at the Delta Center for the first game of the final and the noise was amazing. I wore ear plugs that an audiologist sent me last year when we also played Utah in the finals. She said I should worry about permanent ear damage, and I am. Noise really exceeds the area of ​​tolerance. Last year I went back to my room and my ears were ringing for hours. They muted the noise of the bike, but the introduction is the worst – the bombs, the flares, the balloons bursting in sequence.

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When we lost the game, a heartbreaker, 88-85, I was worried that we would have drained our tanks too much trying to win. But I continued to point out to our team that Jazz was not playing as well as it had during the year. It was obvious to me. There was a lot of pressure on them, much of it from the coaching staff.

Michael was imperturbable. He had a piano in his room and Ahmad Rashad was trying to teach him to play. Michael’s room was just above mine and I could hear this piano. So the night between Games 1 and 2, my family came over and we played this board game called TABOO and shouted for a few hours just to recover. Michael has just moved the piano to another room.

We stole game 2 at the Jazz, 93-88, forcing Utah to 19 turnovers for our seven. Scottie Pippen played a fabulous defense. He had missed two free throws at the end of a game against the Pacers in the previous series, free throws that could have won the game for us, but he put him behind him. It was now as intense as I had ever seen it.

We started to be dotted with coins thrown on the bench in the second half. I told our coach, Chip Schaefer, to tell the referees and the P.A. The announcer finally made a pretty weak announcement asking the crowd to stop because a jazz player could be hit. I was worried because you don’t know where you might get hit. I did pretty well on my back after the first game. But by remaining calm, we achieved a critical victory.

I have seen Michael repeatedly get on the bus or come to train and say, “Dear friends, we are going to win tonight. He was calm during this Jazz series and really enjoyed it. Throughout the series, people asked us if I would be back next season, if Michael, Scottie and Dennis would be back. But these were unknowable things and so we didn’t focus on them. We felt confident and comfortable.

In match 3 in Chicago, we beat Jazz so much that they must have thought, “Are we good enough? No matter what they did, it went wrong.

Karl Malone didn’t have a great fourth quarter throughout the series, and I think he got tired like everyone else. But I also think he questioned his shooting ability. You have to remember that he was not a natural shooter when he entered the league. He was a 55% free thrower. He has made a good shooter with hard work, but sometimes you doubt your stress and the precarious weaknesses of years ago can come back to haunt you. The whole Jazz team had to wonder after this rout 96-54.

Our only distraction was Dennis Rodman. Earlier in the series, he went to Las Vegas to play and do everything he does there, but now that we were home, I was wondering if he would come to training on Monday, which was scheduled for 11 am. I wrote on the locker room blackboard, “Will Dennis be late? When will it happen? “

At 11:45 a.m., the phone rang halfway. “Do you want to talk to Dennis?” Asked someone, holding out the receiver. ” Why? He won’t be there, ”I said. After a while, I came over and picked up the phone and said, “Dennis, what am I going to say to the press? And he hung up on me.

From Detroit to San Antonio to Chicago, from his looks and frolic to his brilliance and exuberance, Dennis Rodman has built a Hall of Fame career on the way to winning five NBA titles in all. Watch on ESPN +

It was the night he went to Detroit and wrestled with Hulk Hogan. The press really beat the whole team, but we survived because we know Dennis. People say I should be hard on him, but they are ignorant. If people don’t know now that Dennis is mentally disabled, what can I say?

I diagnosed him and I know he has a real attention problem. I had 26 hours of graduate studies in psychology and I know what I know. The more you discipline him, the worse. You’re just alienating a guy who already has alienation issues. It needs patience. You have to accept it and say, “Give me the best you can get. “

In fact, I think Eddie Vedder, the singer of Pearl Jam who still hangs out with Dennis, is useful to him. He’s partying with Dennis and staying outside late, but he actually convinced Dennis to come back and play a lot of times. It relates to Dennis because he is an artist.

At a team meeting earlier in the playoffs, I said that we would get sponge rubber boppers and that Dennis would go through a gantlet of team members so that we could symbolically resolve our disappointment with him . But Dennis panicked. He was so worried about it that I canceled the idea. It really bothered him.

Dennis must be in a corner to play. He must be the bad boy. People think I was like him as a player, but I was not at all alike. I was Action Jackson, but I was not hyperactive.

Dennis was excellent in our win in Game 4 (86-82), grabbing 14 rebounds and making 5 of 6 free throws in the final stretch. All of a sudden we were 3-1 ahead, and we knew it was only a matter of time. There was no way to lose three times in a row.

Dennis Rodman was “the only distraction from the Bulls,” said Phil Jackson. During the finals, Rodman visited Las Vegas and Detroit, where he appeared with WCW superstar Hulk Hogan. However, Rodman had 14 rebounds in the Bulls’ decisive victory in game four. Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images

Game 5 was the time to top it off, since this was our last game in Chicago. And who knew where we would disperse after the finals? Tickets cost up to $ 6,000 each. Celebrities were everywhere. But all of us who went to the game got stuck in traffic, the worst Friday traffic I’ve ever seen, and our minds were not focused. Even Michael arrived late at the United Center. We lost by one point, 87-86, with Michael missing this last shot.

I actually schematized the last game in the game for Toni Kukoc, who shot 11-13 on the field. As much as I wanted Michael to have that glory, but I thought it was a wonderful time to use him as a decoy. And Michael wasn’t bothered by that. But Jazz threw Greg Ostertag on Ron Harper when he hit, and Harp couldn’t see. I might have used Pippen, because he’s taller, but he got dirty and I didn’t have anyone else tall who used to do it. Harper therefore handed the ball to Michael.

Michael made an unbalanced three-point shot from the right corner to earn it. Not a big blow, but a blow. Then he talked about how much he liked it. It was a photo of Hail Mary, and he had a very zen comment on it. He said the moment was “cute”. He was the mistress of the moment and he was fascinated by it. If it had been the winning move, it would have been like deceiving the devil or God. For him, going directly to another chapter, another critical game, was remarkable.

I spoke to Michael in the locker room before the sixth game in Utah. He was the last to be recorded, and Scottie was lying on a table near him, receiving ice and electrical stimulation for his back pain. Scottie was injured while taking on so many loads from Malone and others. I said, “Mike, do you think you can go 48 tonight? “

He was very calm, very serious. “I will if I have to,” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Everything you need,” he said. “Let’s do it tonight.

He ended up playing 44 minutes and got really tired at the end. With a few minutes to play, I called a timeout, and he said, “We’re going to win this one. And I said, “I know. When Michael says that, it’s always a good sign.

Scottie was really in pain, so Michael became our offense. I told him to go to the hole because he didn’t have enough energy for his jump shot. Jazz hit him just every time he drove, and he made his free throws. When Stockton made three to give the Jazz a three-point lead with 41 seconds to go, I called time and told the players that we had a two-for-one situation: if we stopped them and scored two times, we would win.

No matter how confident you are as a coach, you really don’t want to enter a seventh game on an opponent’s court. We never played a game 7 in the finals, and there was no reason to start now.

Michael hit a layup to do it 86-85. And then he came from behind and stole the ball from Malone. At that time, I think we were of the opinion. I motioned for her to go down the courtyard. I think he saw me out of the corner of my eye pausing time out. The flow was the right thing at the moment, so we didn’t want to stop.

We pushed the floor aside and Michael waited for Bryon Russell to reach the ball, then he went up for a jump shot near the free throw line. I was really surprised, because I thought he would bring him back to the hoop, because his legs were gone. I didn’t know if he could do it because he was so tired. But Michael is always up to the task. It came off, and you can see in the video that it put some extra stuff on the plan, and it was perfect.

We hugged each other at the end. Difficult. I knew it was the end of many things. “What an incredible finish,” I said to Michael. “What a miraculous story. “

Now I’m done. I’m thinking about taking a whole year off, doing things I’ve never done. Like spending the winter in Hawaii, or going to a spiritual retreat in the West for a long time, or writing down some thoughts. I don’t know where or when my next stop will be.

I told Michael that I don’t know what better time to retire. His last game was like Babe Ruth hitting a grand slam at the bottom of the ninth to win the World Series, which Babe never did. But it’s Michael’s decision.

Me? The rumor started that I was leaving because I needed a hip replacement. My right calf is atrophied from a back injury I had with the Knicks, and my hip hurts. But I’m going to try a full year of yoga before I consider going under the knife.

I grew up in Montana and went to school in North Dakota, and Chicago has always seemed to be the capital of the Midwest. I have friends here and my kids have friends here, but my kids have grown up now. It was wonderful in Chicago, but I don’t think there’s anything to hold me back here.

I think back to last season and know how wonderful it was Last Dance. I have used this phrase “Last Dance” all year because I knew that no matter what, we would never have this whole band together again. The trip was unique, a moment in time that can never be resumed.

Like I said, it’s over.

Rick Telander, a former senior writer for Sports Illustrated and contributor to ESPN, is now the Chicago Sun-Times senior sports columnist and co-hosts, along with Richard Roeper, the new “Chicago Six-Times” podcast, which breaks down each episode from “The Last Dance”.

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