Former Bulls big man Will Perdue weighs in on his coaches: Phil Jackson vs. Gregg Popovich
Perdue had some interesting takes on both men in the wake of “The Last Dance.”
It’s a wrap.
Just like that, one of the greatest sports documentaries has come and gone in a time when the country needed a distraction from talk of quarantine and social distancing.
‘‘The Last Dance,’’ a 10-part series on ESPN, provided that for the last five Sundays. The timing of it in a sports culture that was clamoring for something — anything — to watch was impeccable.
Now let the debating and barbershop talk begin. And who better to tackle one obvious debate than former Bulls big man Will Perdue?
Perdue, who was traded to the Spurs for Dennis Rodman in 1995, had the privilege of being coached by Phil Jackson for the Bulls’ first three-peat, then by Gregg Popovich at the start of the Spurs’ on-again, off-again dynasty. He made it clear which coach was easier to be around.
‘‘[Former Bulls general manager] Jerry Krause always used to have the saying: ‘I want a team of character; I don’t want characters,’ ’’ Perdue told the Sun-Times when relating his reaction to the deal that sent him to the Spurs. ‘‘I remember the day I found out I was traded, I was like: ‘Wait a minute, [Krause] is total bull----. You just traded for the biggest character [Rodman] in the game.
‘‘Second, I felt like I was going to miss out on at least another championship. I felt like I was starting to come into my own as a player, so I would have a more prevalent role. But I realized pretty quickly that I got traded for one of the best players of the time when it came to rebounding and being a defender, a Hall of Famer, and I got traded straight-up, so that’s a huge compliment. And I learned a lot of stuff about myself that I probably wouldn’t have learned in Chicago.
‘‘I had my issues with Phil. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, weren’t always on the same page. I got to go to play for Pop [Popovich]. At the time, [former Celtics star] Dave Cowens was an assistant [with the Spurs], and we developed a great friendship. He worked wonders for my career. So it ended up being a win-win, even though I ended up missing out on a couple of championships.’’
Perdue said he learned there were different ways to coach a team and relate to players than Jackson’s way.
‘‘Phil saw us as a means to an end,’’ Perdue said. ‘‘He took it upon himself to get the best out of me, Horace [Grant], Scottie [Pippen], Michael [Jordan], Steve [Kerr], every player. . . . That was his approach. It got you fired up; you played well that way. He did a nice job of identifying how to motivate each individual. Poke the bear. How do you poke the bear of each guy?
‘‘Pop was more of a father figure. I mean, he got on your ass, but he wasn’t afraid to have an honest conversation with you. . . . He made sure that he had personal relationships with every player in that locker room. He was constantly having meals with players. It was like: ‘You, you and you, we go to Houston, we’re going to dinner. Cancel any plans you have. We’re going to dinner on me, and [there’s] just one rule: We talk everything but basketball. No basketball.’
‘‘I’m not saying Phil is an a—hole, but I don’t know if he had my best interest at heart. He had the team’s best interest at heart, no ifs, ands or buts about that. Anytime you talked to Pop, you could tell he had your interest and the team’s interest at heart. He made us all feel we were an important part of the equation.
‘‘Both were great coaches, but [they were] different. I was in a win-win.’’