Chicago Bulls Infuriated By Early Flight Landing

Geoffrey ClarkCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2008

After falling flat in the fourth quarter of a 90-77 road loss to the Miami Heat and upset over a late timeout called by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, the Chicago Bulls didn't think Friday night could get any worse.  As it turns out, it did.

Following the game, the Bulls players, coaches, and training staff boarded a charter flight that would take them to Atlanta for the following night's game against the Hawks.  Everything was going fine until the flight crew did something that would upset the Bulls even more.

As the plane was about to exit the Florida skies, the pilot suddenly realized how important his co-pilot was and didn't want him to do something that would cause him to miss future flights. 

The pilot, who wished to remain anonymous, was later quoted as saying "this is actually a very common practice in flying a plane.  I wanted to get him off the flight just in case something crazy happened and give another co-pilot who doesn't have as much experience a chance to experience the cockpit."

Consequently, the plane diverted west and landed at Tallahassee Municipal Airport.  The move was not well received by the Bulls.  Head coach Vinny Del Negro shouted insults from his chair, which was closest to the cockpit.  The crew did claim they heard him.  71-year-old assistant coach Del Harris had to be restrained by fellow assistant Bernie Bickerstaff after he came close to several flight attendants.

Forward Andres Nocioni reportedly said afterward that the flight crew clearly didn't respect the Bulls or the fact that they had a morning workout before Saturday night's game.

The switching of the co-pilots was made successfully, but the plane arrived in Atlanta a half hour late.  It is not known whether this was a factor in the Bulls' loss to the Hawks earlier tonight.