The Post-Phil Jackson Era: Chicago Bulls Coach Rankings
The Chicago Bulls are searching for a new head coach.
That's nothing new.
The mystery of who that coach will be (especially during one of the best free-agency seasons ever) brings much anticipation.
But before we look ahead, let's take a trip down memory lane and rank the coaches that the Bulls have gone through since Phil Jackson left after his final season (1997-1998) with the Bulls.
Jackson already set the bar after coaching the Bulls en route to six NBA Championship Titles. It's difficult for any coach to follow those expectations.
Pete Myers - Assistant coach of the Bulls under Bill Cartwright and Scott Skiles. He became interim head coach while both Cartwright and Skiles were fired during the 2003 and 2007 seasons, respectively. Myers recorded no wins in the three games he coached.
Bill Berry - Assistant coach of the Bulls under Tim Floyd and became the interim head coach once Floyd left in 2001. Only coached two games, lost both.
No. 5 Tim Floyd (1998-2001)
They didn't even have to tell him he was fired; he chose to resign.
In his first season, the Bulls went from the best team in the NBA to finishing last in the conference with an embarrassing 13-37 record in '98-'99.
Now, just because the guy looks like Harrison Ford and had a standout college coaching career didn't mean he was capable of continuing the legacy that Phil Jackson left behind.
Yes, he didn't have much talent to work with (Fred Hoiberg, Ron Artest, Elton Brand, Marcus Fizer, Jamal Crawford, and Dickey Simpkins). And yes, the Bulls were a dismantled team. But a true NBA coach could've tallied at least 20 wins in his three full seasons with the same team.
It's called improvement, learning from last season. But adding four more wins in '99-'00 didn't cut it. The Bulls actually downgraded to 15-67 the following season.
Floyd can be a classic example of how college coaching can't carry over into the NBA. Think twice, Bulls, about pursuing John Calipari.
Calipari may help land LeBron James, but is he NBA-coaching material?
No. 4 Jim Boylan (2007-2008)
Though also an interim head coach of the Bulls after Scott Skiles was fired, Jim Boylan coached over three games to earn himself a ranking; he coached the Bulls for the remainder of the '07-'08 season.
Again, the Bulls needed to start from scratch after making two playoff appearances since the glory days. But their heads were in the clouds with the distraction of the Kobe Bryant trade rumors, contract extensions for Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, Ben Wallace not playing up to his expectations, and even signs of players disrespecting coaches (ahem Andres Nocioni and Joakim Noah).
It was a messy season.
Let's see...Tyrus Thomas and Larry Hughes complained about playing time. Chris Duhon was spotted on TV attending his Alma Mater Duke play North Carolina, while he was supposed to be at a team shootaround—busted. And Noah and Wallace (before he was traded) got in each others' faces after being blown out by the Orlando Magic.
Disciplinary actions needed to be taken, and Boylan was more like a long-time babysitter until the Baby Bulls could find their daddy.
Maybe it was Boylan's "interim" title that caused the lack of respect from his players.
Under Boylan, the Bulls went 24-32 for the rest of the season and missed the playoffs. I don't think they even wanted a postseason.
No. 3 Vinny Del Negro (2008-2010)
No coaching experience at all. Not even in college or high school. Who knows what John Paxson was thinking when he hired Vinny Del Negro? Was there something that went under the table?
The Bulls became late bloomers under Del Negro's first season (going 18-27 by January), but their memorable, dramatic playoff series with the Celtics might have been what gave Del Negro a second shot at keeping his job.
For one thing, although he knew he most likely wouldn't return for a third season, Del Negro didn't let the rumors distract him. The Bulls made another playoff appearance against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But this time, it wasn't as climactic.
Del Negro worked with no real superstar (Derrick Rose still needed to develop into that star), yet he was the only coach to bring the Bulls to the playoffs throughout his coaching career with them. You can give him credit for helping develop Rose, Noah, and Taj Gibson.
At least the players seemed a lot more civilized...a little too civilized. The Bulls' standing offense exemplified Del Negro's immature coaching ability when it came to plays.
How about defense? Remember the Toronto Raptors' Jarret Jack tying his shoelace in the middle of play as Luol Deng watched on?
Del Negro didn't preach much about playing aggressive.
No. 2 Bill Cartwright (2001-2003)
Zero playoff appearances. 51-100 overall record with the Bulls. So why rank him second ahead of Del Negro?
Cartwright cleaned up the mess Floyd and Jerry Krause left behind, and he also coached the Bulls when they had very little expectations. There wasn't really much of a mess for Del Negro to clean up, and he had no expectations because no one really knew how he would do. We were hoping he would wow us.
Under Cartwright, the Bulls did improve, breaching the 20-win mark, yet their record was still awful at 21-61 in '01-'02.
At the same time, the Bulls traded key players Brad Miller, Ron Artest, and Ron Mercer for Jalen Rose and Travis Best, which sparked a short-lived winning feeling. Rose brought some much needed shooting, while Best brought speed. This added offense complemented the defensive-minded Cartwright.
The Bulls were hoping to build around Jay Williams, but around the time he left (due to his motorcycle accident), so did Cartwright.
I wouldn't want to say he was fired because of his vocal incapability, but we can safely say that John Paxson just needed a clean slate to work with.
No. 1 Scott Skiles (2003-2007)
I don't remember this guy ever looking happy. Skiles always gave a serious, intense, tough guy look. Smile or no smile, this guy didn't take any crap. You either play by his rules, or you'll be sitting on the bench.
Just ask Jamal Crawford or Skiles' fashion-icon (NOT) Ben Wallace. They'll tell you.
Skiles took over once Cartwright was fired. And the next season, he helped the Bulls see their first light of the playoffs in seven years (even after a discouraging 0-9 start).
He taught the Bulls that defense wins games, not big name players (the Bulls had no standout players, but Ben Gordon later emerged as he became a leading scorer).
Did you know that the Bulls ranked No. 1 in the league ('05-'06) in defensive field-goal percentage? The following season they ranked second. Both times they made it to the playoffs.
Skiles not only coached defense, but fundamentals as well. You can say the Bulls were pretty young, and Skiles used that youth to push the ball on offense and be aggressive, out-hustling other slow-paced NBA teams.
His old-school coaching worked as the team produced, but it didn't work to keep his job. One slump in the NBA, and you'll get the boot.