I came upon this by accident from a football forum and thought it would be a great read. Don't know how accurate it is, but the stories certainly seem to be pretty spot on with what we know about these old-timers nowadays...
April 26, 2011
Great stories about Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls by Johnny Bach
This is a story from a friend.
Thu, Apr 21, 2011
So my dad and I had dinner last night with former Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach. 86 years old. Sharp as a nail. Definitely one of the coolest experiences. This guy’s knowledge about basketball and everything else is insane. Completely old school. So instead of trying to remember stories to tell all of you, I figured I’d put it in an email – that way not to forget and get into very good detail.
Johnny Bach personal file – Has been married 3 times. He has 5 sons with his first wife. Once the kids were all out of the house they didn’t get along. He was married to a flight attendant for a short time but then realized all he was doing was taking care of her kids while she was flying around the world. That ended quickly. Now, he is married to a woman 31 years younger. She is the top medical malpractice lawyer for Clifford, a top Law firm in Chicago. Both divorces took him for pretty much all he was worth. Needless to say, big Lar picked up the tab.
He was in the navy and served with many Marines in WW2. He had a twin brother that was killed at age 19 in the war…lost at sea. Loved that big Lar was a marine. Lots of crazy stories about that. He coached with or against just about every legend in coaching history. He got out of the college game because he hated the blatant cheating that went on. Frank Maquire even told him one time he would never accept a job unless he knew he had $200,000 in cash for him to available at all times.
He grew up in Brooklyn, playing against the Brooklyn Rens while growing up. An all black team from Harlem. He was one of the only white guys that would play against them. Kareem Abdul Jabbar is writing a book on the Rens. Johnny had a picture of the team that Kareem did not have. Kareem really appreciated this and has become great friends with Johnny, even though he wouldn’t give Johnny the time of day when Johnny tried to recruit him to Fordham vs. UCLA. He also now paints in his spare time and is evidently very good. He paints pictures for fallen marines’ families at the request of a medal of honor winner that he is friends with.
Here’s some Johnny Bach stories: He coached with the Bulls for the first three titles before he had a disagreement. After the third championship the Bulls had one more season in the Stadium before moving to the UC. Krause told Johnny, Tex, and Jim Clemons that the three of them would all get extensions before the team went to the new stadium for the 94-95 season. After the Bulls lost to the Knicks in 94, the Hue Hollins game as Johnny referred to it. There was a meeting 10 days after the season. All the coaches and management were in the room. Krause wanted to trade Scottie Pippen. He said he quit on the team and they didn’t want him around anymore. Johnny was the supreme voice against trading Scottie. He said he made a mistake, we all make mistakes. Krause wanted to put it to a vote – trading Pippen. Johnny called out everyone in the room saying, “if this needs to be put to a vote you’re all idiots.” They decided against it. A few weeks went by and Johnny and Krause sat down to talk new contract. Krause told him there wouldn’t be a new contract. He didn’t want Johnny around anymore. Johnny is as old school as they come. He told Krause, “you gave me your word.” (Which in Johnny’s day, your word is everything). Krause told him, “Show me that in writing.” Needless to say, Johnny despises Jerry Krause and didn’t hold his feelings back. Krause has tried to apologize to him over the years, but Johnny has always said to him, “don’t say a f’ing word to me.” So when I asked Johnny, “So all this stuff we’ve heard about Jordan, Phil, Pip hating Krause…” Johnny replied, “It’s all true.” Of all the people Johnny talked about, he definitely spoke with the most disdain about Krause.
Johnny spoke incredibly high about Tex Winter. Loves his Triangle offense. He even used the glasses on the table as the players to teach my dad and I the triangle. Classic.
Johnny believes you cannot teach someone to shoot. You can teach form and all that stuff, but it’s all about rhythm. Some guys have it, some guys don’t. He thinks what Rose has done with his shot is truly remarkable. It’s been all about hard work with Derrick Rose.
Speaking of the current NBA, here’s how Johnny answered some of our questions:
What’s missing with LeBron? Simple, a post game, he’ll never be anything until he gets his ass inside. And this current coach isn’t the guy that can do that. He thought Riley would be able to.
Who’s winning the title this year? He thinks this is a year that it’s very possible we see Oklahoma City running through everyone. He loves their coach. He believes the trade for Perkins was huge for them, and destroys the Celtics chances. He thinks the Bulls can win it as well, but just doesn’t know if Derrick’s body can hold up over the course of the long playoffs.
Who are the best coaches? Phil, Popovich, Scott Brooks, Thibadeau. He thinks Doc rivers is lacking. Likes the Pacers coach. He believes Doug Collins sees more during games than any coach he knows. But unfortunately that is his downfall. Doug lives and dies with every play of every game, just can’t be successful that way.
Johnny coached this past season as a volunteer at St. Ignatious. He doesn’t think he will next year cause he thinks the coach is an idiot. He had a chance to coach Illini recruit Nnana Egwu. Will he be any good I asked? Johnny said, “well he’s going to the wrong school. He should have gone to Northwestern. He’ll never see the court at Illinois.” So that brought up this:
What are your thoughts on Bruce Weber? He doesn’t have it. At some point you have to step up and take the blame. (Now, as you guys all know, I’ve always said, the thing that bothers me the most about Bruce is the blame game he puts on his team. When Johnny said that, Lar and I just started laughing…wow.)
Let’s get to some Bulls stuff:
As I said, he doesn’t know if D rose can hold up. He did praise Derrick, but also said Derrick couldn’t guard him at the age of 86. He’s gotten better, but still has a long way to go defensively. He thinks Boozer is a terrible defender, and that will be their achillies heel, but he also thinks Thibs won’t be afraid to sit him. He doesn’t understand the Bogans thing, which is good because no one does. He has a very good relationship with Paxson. All he would say though was that he was a hard-nosed and great player to coach.
Is/was Phil the real deal? Absolutely. Johnny spoke very high of Phil. With his best attribute being his ability to handle and get the best out of his players. When I asked Johnny about Rodman, Johnny said he didn’t think he could have coached him. But when I asked if Phil was the right guy for Dennis, Johnny said “without a doubt.” Phil knew how to get the best out of everyone. He decided early in the 1991 season that he would never have the starters play together in practice. Everyday he took Jordan and stuck him with the worst players. Then took the other 4 starters and played them against Jordan. He pitted Jordan against Pippen every day, and that’s ultimately what made them both so fantastic. On the flight home from New York after the bulls had lost games 1 and 2 in 1993. Phil showed the Bulls a Pink Floyd video, while Riley was showing his team general Patton stuff. During the video, Jordan got up and said, “Phil, you must’ve smoked some crazy **** back in your day.” The Bulls won the next 4 games.
BJ Armstrong? Very talented player, but unbelievably sensitive. Jordan used to tear him apart every minute. If BJ missed two shots in a row on passes from MJ, Michael would walk by the bench and say, “get his ass out.” BJ a very vain individual. He always made it a bigger competition with Paxson than it should have been. BJ would go insanely hard during warmup dribbling drills to try to make Pax look bad. Which one day prompted Phil to say, “BJ you’re one selfish **********.” And as you guys know, the competition between BJ and Pax continued into the Bulls front office. When Paxson was given the GM job, BJ quit. Still pissed. That’s the reason he didn’t show for the 1991 reunion last month. Johnny did say, however, that BJ is behind the scenes with D rose, and he’s doing a great job of handling him and how he acts. So that’s pretty cool.
Bill Cartwright? Well turns out Cartwright was better than I thought. (I always thought he sucked). But Johnny praised Cartwright for his Willingness to beat the **** out of anyone. Hard picks, hard fouls, sharp elbows. Johnny said Bill might have taken three years off of Mark Price’s career just by the screens he put on him. He was a very good compliment to protect MJ and Scottie in the lane.
Red Kerr – One of the greatest people Johnny ever met. A true friend and a big time partier. Never got out of control but “boy could he drink.” Great player, great enthusiasm, great friend.
Rodman – Never coached him but had great respect for him. He said Rodman used to sit outside Pistons practices afterward with a shotgun to his head. “I’m lucky I never coached him, I probably would have told him to do it already.”
Scottie Pippen? Nothing but respect for Pippen. Great teammate. Great player. He was a thug when he came into the league, but really came around and they talk regularly now. Pippen and Jordan together defensively was as devastating a duo as there will ever be. Scottie and Michael used to compete on everything. Jordan used always claim his hands were bigger, but they weren’t. Scottie was very blessed down below. And that killed Michael. Johnny said, “you should have seen the girls pippen had waiting for him everywhere we went. Madonna used to pick him up in a limo with a hot tub every time we went to L.A.Michael used to tell Madonna he could satisfy her better, to which Madonna would tell him “not a chance.””
The youngest of 17 children, Pippen has had a tough battle with money. When you combine the fact that pippen signed a stupid long term deal in 1991, family members riding him, and a crooked investment where he had $20 million stolen from him, Pip was basically flat broke when he came back to the Bulls in 2003. Reinsdorf gave him a big deal and even paid him for the two years he didn’t play, which he didn’t have to do. Reinsorf is a loyal guy and Johnny nothing bad to say about him, but Reinsdorf obviously took Krause’s position back in 1995 so it’s not all rainbows, but he likes Reinsdorf. Pippen also married Larsa who comes from big time money. So he’s doing fine now.
Pippen and Jordan? They were good buddies. Scottie really benefitted from Michael pushing him every day in practice. After a while, you never needed to worry about the team working hard because Michael and Scottie worked the hardest and they were the leaders. Everyone had to follow.
Who was the better defender? Pippen was one of the best and most gifted defenders of all time. But MJ was the better defender. Michael could shut down anyone in the world for a 3 minute span.
The best he’s ever seen. (I was pretty shocked by that, but man what does that tell you about MJ, unbelievable.) Jordan was the most ferocious competitor Bach has seen in all his years of basketball. Johnny said physically Jordan and Pippen were about the same as defenders. But when you add in MJ’s ruthlessness and trash talk, that put him ahead of Scottie. When Johnny was coaching with the Hornets in 1995 they had a good team. Glen Rice, Mourning, Johnson. Series was tied at 2 and Hornets had a chance to win game 5 in Chicago. On the biggest possession of the game, Mugsy had the ball with the Hornets down 1. Jordan backed off of him and told him: “shoot it you ****ing midget.” Mugsy shot it, didn’t come close. A year later Mugsy actually told Johnny Bach that he believes that single play ruined his career. His shot never recovered.
Johnny said not to look past it, MJ is one of the smartest people he’s ever met in his life. Jordan owns the Air Jordan brand. The money from that is astounding. Jordan also only signs ten years deals with advertisers. With an MJ-only option to pull the deal at any time.
Did he retire because of gambling? Johnny said he didn’t know. But that he told Johnny and Phil first, and said he was gonna play baseball. MJ was going through a lot with the death of his father, who Johnny called a rogue. James was always involved with bad people and Michael constantly tried to help him. He was missing for 10 days before the Jordan’s even started really looking, because that’s how he was. It wasn’t the first time he went AWOL. Johnny told Michael that he was fine with him retiring and didn’t want him to become a washed up guy hanging on. When Johnny was hired with Washington in 2000 with Jordan and Doug Collins, Johnny begged MJ not to come back. When Jordan did, he told Johnny I’ll fire you if you don’t stop telling me I shouldn’t come back haha.
Concerning gambling, Johnny did say that MJ took him to VIP rooms where they gave MJ $3 million in chips. He saw MJ lose 3 mil and win 3 mil on many occasions…playing three hands of blackjack at once. Johnny also saw Patrick Ewing lose $3 million in two hours. MJ told Patrick, you’re a complete idiot, only I could possibly play 4 hands of blackjack at once.
Women? MJ used to tell Johnny that “Tiger Woods is an idiot. I tried to help him, but the kid’s gonna get caught.” (we all know how that turned out). In order for a girl to get to MJ, she needed to go through 4 undercover former narcotics detectives just to speak to Michael. She had to be approved by all 4 to make sure she wasn’t gonna say a damn word about MJ to anyone. So there’s MJ, not the greatest character guy, but he sure was pretty smart.
A couple MJ stories I’ll leave you with:
Story #1 – The day before game 4 of the Bulls Suns finals with the Bulls leading the series 2-1. Michael and Charles Barkley went golfing. They played 48 holes of golf. And Michael bought Charles a $20,000 diamond earring. Johnny asked MJ, “what did you do all that for?” Michael responded, “he won’t get in my way the rest of the series, what’s $20,000 to me? Charles thinks we’re great friends. I hate that fat ****.” Jordan dropped 55 in game 4 and Barkley never touched him once.
Story #2 – Jordan invited Johnny Bach (Johnny later told me they talk once a month, good friends) to MJ’s Hall of fame dinner. It was $1,000 per plate, plus airfaire, hotel, etc. Johnny straight up told Michael that he didn’t have the money. The next morning, a limo showed up, airfaire and hotel and dinner was paid for, along with other money to spend for the week.
Anyway, Johnny actually said he’d like to get together again, which would be great. Unreal experience. Hope you all enjoyed. There’s more stuff he said that I’ll try to remember, but that’s all I got for now.