Bulls not grabbing situation by horns Though Floyd hired, management hasn't written off Jackson

July 24, 1998|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

CHICAGO -- The soap opera that is the Bulls seems never-ending and it keeps getting more interesting.

Tim Floyd is in, Phil Jackson is not exactly out, and the ball is back in Michael Jordan's court.

Those were the three key points to emerge from the United Center Thursday, where Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf introduced Floyd as the team's new director of basketball operations. Reinsdorf made it clear that Floyd, who resigned as Iowa State's coach the day before, will eventually be the Bulls' next coach, as expected.

Then came the spin-doctoring.

Before Floyd takes over, Reinsdorf said, Jackson will be asked if he'd like his job back. Jackson, the only coach Jordan seems willing to play for, resigned last month after coaching the Bulls to six championships in eight years.

Reinsdorf said he is willing to wait until the NBA settles its labor dispute for Jackson to make a decision. In the meantime, Floyd will assume the duties of a head coach.

"Should Phil not return by the end of the lockout, Tim will succeed him as head coach," Reinsdorf said. "If Phil does return, then Tim will continue to serve as director of basketball operations and he would succeed Phil as head coach at whatever time in the future Phil decides to step down."

Floyd might as well pick up his clipboard and whistle now, said Jackson's agent, Todd Musburger -- Jackson is not coming back.

"It's not going to happen, and they know that," Musburger said. "Phil was real surprised. I think it's important that we not fool around with the notion that the two Jerrys [Reinsdorf and general manager Jerry Krause] could talk Phil into returning. It's not going to happen."

Jackson has been vacationing since hopping on his motorcycle and riding away from the Bulls' Deerfield, Ill., practice facility for what was believed to be the last time on June 21. He was unavailable to comment.

Musburger said he's spoken with Jackson and that he and Jackson were "amused" by Reinsdorf's offer because the Bulls' chairman knows there is no way the coach is coming back.

Jordan avoided reporters yesterday, a week after repeating that he would not play for any coach except Jackson, and mentioning Floyd by name. He canceled an appearance at his basketball camp at Elmhurst College so he wouldn't have to comment on the latest developments in this drama.

But Jordan's agent, David Falk, did offer some insight, reiterating that Jordan would not make a decision on his future until the NBA's labor dispute is resolved.

"Michael has tremendous respect for Jerry Reinsdorf, and it's not appropriate for him to determine who the coach is," Falk said. "It is management's job to determine who the best coach is, and then Michael can make his decision based upon his evaluation of the team's opportunity to win a championship."

Floyd, 44, who signed a five-year contract worth between $7 million and $9 million, appears to have no problem with Reinsdorf's thinking. In addressing Chicago reporters for the first time, Floyd said he was joining the Bulls with the understanding that Reinsdorf and Krause would try to bring everybody back, including Jackson.

Yet Floyd is the next Bulls coach, no matter how this plays out. It could happen as soon as a week from now, or not for a year.

Floyd, accompanied by his wife, Beverly, and daughter, Shannon, expressed admiration for Jordan and Jackson, and said he'd support efforts to bring them back.

"This would be welcome by the NBA and fans everywhere. I'm not going to do anything to deter that possibility from happening. In the meantime, I'm going to be very busy trying to prepare the Chicago Bulls for the 1998-99 season.

"If management comes to me and tells me to step aside and move to the front office, I'll try to contribute in some way to what I think could be the seventh world championship team. That's if the players and the coaches return. If I'm asked to coach this basketball team next season, I'll be prepared."

U.S. roster

The 12 players who will represent the United States at the World Championships in Athens later this month:

Player, College

Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State

Jimmy King, Michigan '95

Brad Miller, Purdue '98

Wendell Alexi, Syracuse '86

Ashraf Amaya, S. Illinois '93

Bill Edwards, Wright State '93

Kiwane Garris, Illinois '97

Michael Hawkins, Xavier '95

Gerard King, Nicholls State '96

Jimmy Oliver, Purdue '91

Jason Sasser, Texas Tech '96

David Wood, Nevada Reno '87

Pub Date: 7/24/98

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