Chicago's Tim Floyd
Coaching Toward Oblivion
When he was coaching at Iowa State three seasons ago, Tim Floyd would have welcomed comparisons to Clair Bee, the Hall of Fame coach who led LIU to NIT championships in 1939 and '41 and whose .826 winning percentage is the highest in NCAA history. Following in Bee's pro footsteps is a different story, though, and unfortunately for Floyd, that's just what he is doing. Bee went 34-116 with the Baltimore Bullets from 1952-53 to '54-55, and his .227 winning percentage stood as the NBA's worst 150-game mark for more than four decades. Then Chicago general manager Jerry Krause chose Floyd to oversee the rebuilding of the Bulls following the 1997-98 season. By last Saturday, after a 99-91 loss to the Sixers, Floyd and his 33-123 (.212) career record were nestled comfortably under Bee at the bottom of the league's coaching register.
Statistical evidence notwithstanding, it is not easy finding someone to assert that Floyd is a bad coach, let alone the worst ever. Chicago's 12-man roster has a combined 15 years of experience, and only the Clippers have a payroll lower than the Bulls' $29.7 million. "Maybe some coach could win a few more games," says Trail Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy, "but you ain't going to win 10 more with that team."
Floyd is also hampered by Krause's insistence that he run the triangle offense despite the Bulls' inability to grasp it "Tim has his hands tied," says former Chicago guard Matt Maloney, who's now with the Hawks. "Its coming down from Jerry, so he really can't implement an offense that might change things."
Despite a 3-21 start, the 46-year-old Floyd has not let his frustration spill over into his dealings with his players. After a lackluster first half at Dallas this month, Chicago's first possession of the third quarter consisted of Ron Artest dribbling aimlessly before losing the ball out of bounds. Floyd dispatched Corey Benjamin to replace Artest, who jogged off the court wearing the look of a man who expected either to be chewed out or to be banished to the end of the bench. But Floyd had a few gentle words with the second-year swingman and sent him back on the floor 34 seconds later. "That's what I respect about the guy? says Benjamin, the only holdover from Floyd's first Chicago team. "No matter what happens, we're still in the gym the next day going hard, and he's still teaching us."
Until reinforcements arrive, teaching is all Floyd can do. But will help ever come? The Bulls will have $25.5 million of cap space next year—easily the most in the league—but there's no reason to believe they'll be able to use it. Over the summer Krause threw piles of cash at Eddie Jones and Tracy McGrady, each of whom decided he'd rather play for a competitive team in Florida. (The best Chicago could do with its small fortune was sign swingman Ron Mercer and backup center Brad Miller.) One of next summer's top free agents will be Michael Finley, who's from suburban Chicago, but he has said little to give Bulls fans hope of a homecoming.
Despite the team's dire straits, Floyd is signed up through 2004-05. "I'd be disappointed in myself if I walked away from this," he says. "I think that to be happy in life, you have to have something to look forward to, and you've got to like what you're doing. I like what I'm doing."