Pippen itching to coach
And he'd like a shot at the Bulls' job, which isn't as crazy as it sounds
On Pro Basketball
December 31, 2007
Larry Bird never coached before he led the Indiana Pacers to the NBA Finals.
Pat Riley was briefly a Lakers assistant but primarily a broadcaster before becoming one of the most decorated coaches in NBA history.
Isiah Thomas never had coached, and while it's not going well for him now in New York, he had three productive seasons in his first coaching job with the Indiana Pacers.
Don Nelson was an assistant coach in Milwaukee for two months before beginning what should be a Hall of Fame career.
Doug Collins was briefly an Arizona State recruiting assistant before coming to the Bulls. Doc Rivers never coached before being named NBA coach of the year in his rookie season in Orlando. Avery Johnson was on Nelson's staff less than one season before taking over as head coach and taking the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals and being named coach of the year.
So why not Scottie Pippen as the next coach of the Bulls?
"What's my disadvantage?" Pippen asked. "No NBA coaching experience? [Scott] Skiles' record with the Bulls wasn't that great. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do what you've done your whole life. I've played basketball, run teams and won.
"They didn't put me at point guard because I could dribble good. They put me there because I could run a team. I wasn't the best dribbler, the best shooter. I wasn't a point guard. But I knew how to run a team."
Pippen, who is living in Ft. Lauderdale and dabbling in a few business ventures, clearly has given this some thought.
"With a guy who loved to touch it and shoot all the time, I was able to keep him under control," Pippen said, referring, of course, to Michael Jordan. "That didn't come from the bench, it came from making the right decisions. You try to make the game fun for everyone and then we were able to find Mike. The games I felt he was getting off too much, I'd find a way to get other guys off. And then guys weren't running at him all the time and he could take off in the right place."
Pippen wonders why he hasn't been approached about getting into coaching.
"What's the key to this good ol' boy system they have?" he asked. "You've got to go to Europe and coach two years? Sit next to someone for a year? And then looking at someone like me and trying to figure out how your team did it, how you got there every time? Guys like Skiles have never been there. Can he give a motivation speech like someone who's been in those games? I've played for championships.
"What experience do you need? You have assistants who have been there. If I made a mistake, I wouldn't be the first coach to make a mistake. I'd love the opportunity to be part of the organization now that Skiles is gone. I've won championships with this organization and been in the competition when everything was on the line. I was a coach on the floor. Why isn't that experience?"
Jim Boylan is the Bulls' coach for the rest of the season and could catch lightning in a bottle and earn the job. Veterans who have been NBA coach of the year, like Larry Brown and Rick Carlisle, are lining up. Around the NBA, coaching the Bulls is considered the best job available with a solid, if not great, core, management that's willing to pay for players, a loyal fan base and first-class facilities.
But Pippen? The guy who had the migraine headache, the 1.8-seconds-left strike, the sundry embarrassing episodes? Yes, Pippen, the player Phil Jackson entrusted to run the triangle offense. Teammates regarded him as one of the smartest players in the league, and trusted him to involve them in the game.
Pippen may not know where Musharraf comes from, but he knows where the double team is coming from and where to find open space. He has an innate feel for the game, if not always social niceties.
As Pippen likes to say, "How many titles did Jordan win without me?"
Their fierce rivalry and competition fueled those championship Bulls teams. No one could slack off watching the two go at one another in practice the way they did. The games became the easy part.
I recall Steve Kerr remarking that Pippen was the one who'd know when you needed a shot to find your rhythm and where you felt comfortable getting the ball. Pippen would consult with Jackson on defensive strategy, and it was he who suggested he take Magic Johnson in the 1991 Finals, which proved decisive.
Playing the point forward role that might have been invented with him in mind, Pippen brought a dysfunctional Trail Blazers team to the brink of the 2000 NBA Finals. But injuries got the best of him afterward.
General manager John Paxson signed Pippen in 2003 for leadership, but Pippen was injured and says he mostly backed off after Bill Cartwright was fired.
"I didn't come there to play for Skiles," Pippen said. "I didn't like him, didn't like him as a player."
One question about Pippen is whether he'd put in the necessary work, but he seems eager. He's leaving for Sweden and Finland this week to play in some exhibition games with club teams.
"They wanted to see the best," he said with a laugh. "Who else would they ask?"
But Pippen says he's serious about coaching, and if there is an opening in Chicago, be believes he's perfect. He has been watching the Bulls. And one thing we know about Pippen is he's not afraid to say what he thinks.