Floyd savors second chance
Thought to be buried by his failures in Chicago, Tim Floyd has reemerged in New Orleans with a chance to succeed.
Editor's note: ESPN.com is once again visiting all 29 NBA teams during training camp and the preseason. The tour continues with a report on the New Orleans Hornets.
Four years of misery in Chicago and a league-worst 49-190 record was supposed to do Tim Floyd in. No coach survives the type of rebuilding Jerry Krause and the Bulls forced him to go through. But when it's a coach coming straight from college to the pros -- the aftereffects are even more brutal.
When Floyd resigned two seasons ago, few thought he'd ever resurface in the NBA. But here he is, a head coach again. An NBA head coach. On a team that has aspirations of an Eastern Conference title.
"It feels great," Floyd says with a smile as his team prepared to take on the Magic last week. "I feel very fortunate. Very lucky."
After wondering whether he'd ever get an opportunity to coach in the league again, Floyd landed in the most unusual of situations. He's clinging tightly to something he never had in Chicago -- a chance to win.
"Those four years seemed like they lasted a hundred," Floyd said. "I wasn't sure if I'd get another chance. I had an opportunity to go back and be an assistant. I had the opportunity to go be a collegian head coach. But after the Bulls, I just wanted time and space -- not because I was beaten up -- I just hadn't had that before."
Floyd also was making sure he didn't land in another bad situation again. When Floyd took over the Bulls, he had no clue how painful the rebuilding process was going to be.
"The essence of what we do is win," Floyd said. "That's what we are measured on. I was in a situation where what we were talking about was next year, or the next two years or three years down the road. Two of the teams were the youngest teams in the NBA. Three of the teams were the lowest salary-cap teams in the league ... Anytime you go into the lottery, it's a six- or seven-year process. The plan was to be bad."
That may have been the original plan, but Krause decided in Year 3 to pull the plug again and trade Elton Brand for a high school player. Floyd's patience began to wear thin. In December of 2001, Floyd resigned.
He didn't get the itch to coach again until January 2003. But this time, he knew he'd only hit the NBA sidelines if a couple of criteria were met.
|“||I'm not afraid to say that I think we can play for all of it. This team should take advantage of (its) experience and the fact that (it has) been together. A lot of coaches wouldn't say that. You lower expectations and it creates longevity. But the hell with it. That's what I expect. ”|
|— Tim Floyd|
Floyd knew that the odds of him landing all three were slim.
"Typically, the jobs that open up are the ones that are beaten down. I was fortunate," he said with a big grin.
Fortunate indeed. The Hornets decided that it was time to make a change after coach Paul Silas seemed unable to get the veteran Hornets to the Eastern Conference finals. Co-owner Ray Wooldridge pushed hard for Mike Fratello, but in the end, majority owner George Shinn decided that hiring Floyd, a local product, would be best for the franchise.
Shinn felt the Hornets needed someone who was hungry and living on the edge. So far, Floyd hasn't disappointed.
"He's doing a good job," Baron Davis said.
Davis was close to Silas and was critical of the firing at first. But after seeing what Floyd had in store for the team, his opinion of the hire changed.
"He's given us a different offense," Davis added. "I like it a lot. I like the tempo we're playing at. I'm excited. I was afraid we'd be playing the triangle."
The offense Floyd put in is far from the triangle offense he was forced to use in Chicago. The Hornets' new system is based on New Jersey's Princeton offense. Ball movement and player motion are emphasized. Players like Davis will be asked to push the ball relentlessly, much like Jason Kidd does for the Nets.
With an athletic backcourt and bigs who can run the floor, Floyd's Hornets are off to a 4-2 start in the preseason. But Floyd says the biggest difference between his Baby Bulls and his veteran Hornets is their attitude toward the game.
"These guys are so geared to winning," Floyd said in a subtle dig to his former team. "It's the most abused thing by the fans that don't know. They want to say it's all the money. But when you coach a team filled with veterans, you learn it's not true. This team is about self-improvement; they're about winning. And that's it. They come to work every day, work at a high level. I've just been so pleased."
Floyd claims he's taken patience and persistence away from his four years of hell in Chicago. But you can see that he won't have much of either in New Orleans. He's been denied for far too long. He doesn't just want his team to win. He wants it to dominate. His career is hinging on it.
Lazarus is back. And he's looking for revenge.
"I'm not afraid to say that I think we can play for all of it," Floyd said. "This team should take advantage of (its) experience and the fact that (it has) been together. A lot of coaches wouldn't say that. You lower expectations and it creates longevity. But the hell with it. That's what I expect."
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN.com's ESPN Insider.