Tim Floyd has picked his predecessor's brain, learned the triangle offense from the master and watched so much film he knows Karl Malone's moves better than the Mailman himself.
Now, if only the Chicago Bulls had a team for him to coach.
With the NBA season in limbo as owners and players haggle over salaries, Floyd can only watch, wait and prepare for the day he officially takes over as coach of the six-time NBA champions.
"I'm trying to benefit, take advantage of the time that we have," Floyd said in an interview at the Berto Center, where the Bulls practice. "There was a period where I couldn't get enough of the film work. Now ... I'm getting quite eager to get out there and work."
Technically, Floyd remains the Bulls' director of basketball operations, a title he was given to placate Michael Jordan, who has said he won't play for anyone but Phil Jackson. It's pretty clear, though, that Jackson isn't coming back, so Floyd is acting like a coach getting ready for his first NBA season.
But anyone who feared the new guy was going to shake up the dynasty can rest easy.
"Why change it?" the former Iowa State coach said, smiling.
"Given our desires to try and make things as comfortable for this team as possible to come back, it would be much easier for me to adjust to 12 players, given their success, than have 12 players adjust to me," he said. "As players change, then we'll be prepared to adjust as needed."
Floyd, who was hired in July, wants Jordan and the rest of the championship gang back as baly as anyone else in Chicago. So much so, he's keeping things just as Jackson left them when he zoomed off on his Harley-Davidson almost five months ago. Floyd's only assistant who wasn't on Jackson's staff last year is Jim Woolridge, and he was hired to replace Jimmy Rodgers, who left before Floyd signed on.
Floyd spent the summer huddling with Tex Winter, designer of Chicago's famed triangle offense, and plans to run it again. Same with the stingy defense that's been crucial for Chicago's championship teams.
And just to make sure he wasn't missing anything, he dropped in on Jackson when the former Bulls coach made a trip back to Chicago over the summer.
"It seemed like the right thing to do," Floyd said. "(Since I) had talked about duplicating the system of play, I needed to talk to the person who was calling the shots in that system."
Yeah, but this was the same guy who mocked Floyd last year, openly making fun of him with Jordan and Co.
"What, the Pink Floyd thing?" Floyd asked, laughing. "That didn't bother me, it didn't bother me at all. As much as my name was mentioned over here, I'm sure I would have done the same thing. Being called `Pink' didn't bother me."
"In fact, we might even name a play 'Pink' this year."
During his visit to Jackson's house, Floyd asked him about the players' strengths and weaknesses and wanted to know more about the staff and the best way to use it. The one thing they didn't discuss was Jackson's future.
Jackson has made it clear his run with the Bulls is done and he plans to sit out this season.
"I kidded on my way out the door, 'Now that seat I'm sitting in is pretty hot. If you want to come back in and take it over, you can.' He laughed and said, 'Don't worry about that happening,'" Floyd said. "That was all that was mentioned about that."
Which brings up Jordan. His Airness seemed headed for retirement early in the summer when he said he'd only play for Jackson or Dean Smith, but he's backed off that lately. He's even hinted that he wouldn't mind the challenge of trying to win a championship with a new coach.
Jordan also has thrown his considerable weight behind the players in the labor negotiations -- would a guy who was retiring do that? -- and says he'll announce his plans when the lockout ends.
Floyd admits while he understood Jordan's hard stance on Jackson, it did concern him. After all, who wants to be the guy blamed for running Jordan out of basketball? So before taking the job, he talked with Buzz Peterson, Jordan's roommate at North Carolina and now coach at Appalachian State. Peterson talked to Jordan, who said Floyd should go ahead and take the job.
Still, if Jordan comes back to the Bulls but says he wants to play for someone else, Floyd would step aside without a second thought.
"It'd be ridiculous for me to say that I wouldn't want to coach this team. At the same time, if I need to step away then I' going to be prepared for that," he said. "I believe at that point what we would be looking at is an opportunity to play for a seventh championship. ... I think it would be great to just be a part of that, however small that part might be."
Maybe that's why it hasn't sunk in yet Floyd has his dream job. He's spent endless hours preparing, and as the son of a basketball coach, he's relaxed and confident.
Still, he's trying not to think of the job as "his" yet.
"I'll have to go through a year to really get the full appreciation. But I feel privileged. ... I feel fortunate to have this opportunity, I really do," he said.
"I think about every day just how much I want to put into this," he added. "I don't want to cheat these people and I don't want to cheat the players or the organization. I have a sense for what they've experienced and I know what's at stake."
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