Before the Chicago Bulls morphed into a title contender, they needed to endure growing pains. They needed to mature. And they needed to upgrade their roster (adding Bill Cartwright, for example) in the 1980s.
What’s more, they found the perfect guy (the only guy) to steer the ship.
His name, of course, is Phil Jackson.
Influence of Red Holzman
The Zen Master gained a lifetime — several lifetimes, really — of hoops insight from the great Red Holzman, who is often overlooked by basketball fans and the media.
But in the annals of the great game, the New York Knicks coach should be remembered this way: as a great teacher of fundamentals and a brilliant tactician.
The great New York Times writer Ira Berkow penned Holzman’s obituary in 1998. In the article, Berkow highlighted Holzman’s bright coaching mind and his basic approach to the game.
”I stressed defense — pressure defense,” Holzman was quoted as saying. ”And team basketball. And, on offense, moving the ball to hit the open man.”
Jackson saw how pressure defense and motion offense worked for the Knicks. Two titles and three NBA Finals appearances in the early 1970s was irrefutable evidence.
Bulls acquire Bill Cartwright
In June 1988, a trade that sent 24-year Bulls forward Charles Oakley to the Knicks for 31-year-old center Bill Cartwright impacted both franchises.
Oakley became a key part of New York’s frontline for more than a decade.
Cartwright gave Chicago a steady, hard-working presence in the low post. A quality defender, he also fit in well with the team’s triangle offense when Jackson replaced Doug Collins on the bench.
Which is exactly what Bulls general manager Jerry Krause expected.
”We’re happy to acquire the services of a proven low-post scoring center,” Krause said, according to The New York Times. ”At 31, we feel Bill has excellent years of basketball ahead of him. Also, by obtaining the 11th pick in the draft, we put ourselves in a better position. The development of Horace Grant helped us make such a deal. We feel Horace can be a quality player and develop like Charles Oakley.”
Insights on Bill Cartwright
In February 2013, weeks after he had taken over as head coach of the Osaka Evessa in Japan, Cartwright was the subject of a lengthy Q&A feature in The Japan Times.
Before the article moved on to Cartwright’s comments, legendary basketball columnist Peter Vecsey provided some insightful remarks about the five-time title winner (three as the Bulls’ starting center and two as an assistant coach under Jackson).
“He was a real man as a player,” Vecsey said of Bill Cartwright. “Was the one to get into (Scottie) Pippen’s face in locker room after he refused to play when Jackson gave (Toni) Kukoc the attempt to tie (Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals), which he hit.
“He was also the guy who helped (Michael) Jordan win his first titles. Michael hated him for quite a while, ordering teammates not to pass him ball in the fourth quarter, but, I believe, he came to appreciate him.
“Hubie (Brown) had an impossible job as Knicks coach because Cartwright was a very good center but (Patrick) Ewing, a team player in the minds of most, refused to play outside as power forward. Hence, the (Charles) Oakley-Cartwright trade helped both teams, but the Bulls most…”