DETROIT – Johnny Bach, 91, the defensive-minded coaching legend during the Bulls’ first three NBA championships from 1991-93, died on Monday.
Alongside Tex Winter, the two assistant coaches became key figures of the Phil Jackson coaching staff, as Winter made the “Triangle’’ offense a household phrase, and Bach was credited for masterminding the “Doberman defense’’ in which Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen flourished.
Besides being a decorated World War II veteran, Bach coached for 56 years, including being part of the 1972 USA Olympic team, which fell to Russia in a game marred in controversy.
He jumped to the NBA in the 1980s, being named the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, and after he was let go in 1986, he was hired by the Bulls to join their coaching staff.
“Johnny was a true treasure in the world of basketball,’’ John Paxson, the VP of Basketball Operations, said in a statement. “He was the classic ‘old school’ coach who came to work each and every day with energy and enthusiasm for the game he loved. His zest for life and basketball were unparalleled. He will be greatly missed by everyone in the Bulls family, as well as everyone he connected with during his long tenure in both college and professional basketball.’’
Bach last coached for the Bulls from 2003-06, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a busy man after he retired.
Not only was he an avid painter, but he was still consulting with coaches on every level.
First-year coach Fred Hoiberg found that out this summer, as Bach was in his office after he was hired, as well as attending training camp. Not only did Bach talk basketball with Hoiberg, but had lengthy discussions with him about his grandfather, Jerry Bush.
Bush was the Nebraska coach from 1955-63, and according to Hoiberg, the two had a lot in common.
“Yeah, I feel very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to get to know Johnny Bach this summer,’’ Hoiberg said. “He was around the office a lot. He told me a lot of stories, actually about my grandfather. He remembered him so vividly. You know, 91 years old, and just so sharp. Just told me so many things because they were both from the northeast.
“Just a wonderful person. I sat down and talked basketball with him every day that he was in the office. Absolutely a sad day.’’