This week, a day after former Chicago Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach died at 91, we got an email. A friend of a friend had sent the tipster a summary of a 2011 dinner with Bach. It was filled with all sorts of fun anecdotes about Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Jerry Krause, and more characters on from that era of the Bulls. The stories were pretty good on their own, but we wanted context, and facts. We asked the tipster if he stayed in touch with the person who sent it to him. Did he know the person who went to dinner with Johnny Bach?
The tipster said no, and no. In the course of our research, though, we discovered that we had received this same summary of Bach stories in 2012, from a different tipster who said he received it from a friend of a friend. There was an email address attached to the friend of a friend. We emailed, and asked if he went to the dinner. He said no; someone sent it to him. We asked who sent it to him. He didn’t respond. The same email also shows up in a year-old archived Reddit post, so this compilation has clearly made the rounds.
The longwinded point being made here is that we have no clue who the fuck supposedly went to dinner with Johnny Bach. (If you do know, email firstname.lastname@example.org.) Nonetheless, in the spirit of Derek Jeter’s butt habits and every Rickey Henderson anecdote, we’re filing this under unverified stories we desperately want to believe. Here are the best excerpts.
On Bach’s relationship with former Bulls GM Jerry Krause:
After the Bulls lost to the Knicks in 94, the Hue Hollins game as Johnny referred to it. There was a meeting 10 days after the season. All the coaches and management were in the room. Krause wanted to trade Scottie Pippen. He said he quit on the team and they didn’t want him around anymore. Johnny was the supreme voice against trading Scottie. He said he made a mistake, we all make mistakes. Krause wanted to put it to a vote - trading Pippen. Johnny called out everyone in the room saying, “if this needs to be put to a vote you’re all idiots.” They decided against it. A few weeks went by and Johnny and Krause sat down to talk new contract. Krause told him there wouldn’t be a new contract. He didn’t want Johnny around anymore. Johnny is as old school as they come. He told Krause, “you gave me your word.” (Which in Johnny’s day, your word is everything). Krause told him, “Show me that in writing.” Needless to say, Johnny despises Jerry Krause and didn’t hold his feelings back. Krause has tried to apologize to him over the years, but Johnny has always said to him, “don’t say a f’ing word to me.” So when I asked Johnny, “So all this stuff we’ve heard about Jordan, Phil, Pip hating Krause...” Johnny replied, “It’s all true.” Of all the people Johnny talked about, he definitely spoke with the most disdain about Krause.
On Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan’s rivalry:
Nothing but respect for Pippen. Great teammate. Great player. He was a thug when he came into the league, but really came around and they talk regularly now. Pippen and Jordan together defensively was as devastating a duo as there will ever be. Scottie and Michael used to compete on everything. Jordan used always claim his hands were bigger, but they weren’t. Scottie was very blessed down below. And that killed Michael. Johnny said, “you should have seen the girls pippen had waiting for him everywhere we went. Madonna used to pick him up in a limo with a hot tub every time we went to L.A. Michael used to tell Madonna he could
satisfy her better, to which Madonna would tell him “not a chance.””
The youngest of 17 children, Pippen has had a tough battle with money. When you combine the fact that pippen signed a stupid long term deal in 1991, family members riding him, and a crooked investment where he had $20 million stolen from him, Pip was basically flat broke when he came back to the Bulls in 2003. [Jerry] Reinsdorf gave him a big deal and even paid him for the two years he didn’t play, which he didn’t have to do. Reinsorf is a loyal guy and Johnny nothing bad to say about him, but Reinsdorf obviously took Krause’s position back in 1995 so it’s not all rainbows, but he likes Reinsdorf. Pippen also married Larsa who comes from big time money. So he’s doing fine now.
On B.J. Armstrong and his relationship with John Paxson:
Very talented player, but unbelievably sensitive. Jordan used to tear him apart every minute. If BJ missed two shots in a row on passes from MJ, Michael would walk by the bench and say, “get his ass out.” BJ a very vain individual. He always made it a bigger competition with [John] Paxson than it should have been. BJ would go insanely hard during warmup dribbling drills to try to make look bad. Which one day prompted Phil [Jackson] to say, “BJ you’re one selfish cocksucker.” And as you guys know, the competition between BJ and Pax continued into the Bulls front office. When Paxson was given the GM job, BJ quit. Still pissed. That’s the reason he didn’t show for the 1991 reunion last month. Johnny did say, however, that BJ is behind the scenes with D rose, and he’s doing a great job of handling him and how he acts. So that’s pretty cool.
On Jordan ruining Muggsy Bogues:
Johnny said physically Jordan and Pippen were about the same as defenders. But when you add in MJ’s ruthlessness and trash talk, that put him ahead of Scottie. When Johnny was coaching with the Hornets in 1995 they had a good team. Glen Rice, Mourning, Johnson. Series was tied at 2 and Hornets had a chance to win game 5 in Chicago. On the biggest possession of the game, Mugsy had the ball with the Hornets down 1. Jordan backed off of him and told him: “shoot it you fucking midget.” Mugsy shot it, didn’t come close. A year later Mugsy actually told Johnny Bach that he believes that single play ruined his career. His shot never recovered.
On Jordan helping out Bach:
Jordan invited Johnny Bach (Johnny later told me they talk once a month, good friends) to MJ’s Hall of fame dinner. It was $1,000 per plate, plus airfaire, hotel, etc. Johnny straight up told Michael that he didn’t have the money. The next morning, a limo showed up, airfaire and hotel and dinner was paid for, along with other money to spend for the week.
On Jordan meeting women:
MJ used to tell Johnny that “Tiger Woods is an idiot. I tried to help him, but the kid’s gonna get caught.” (we all know how that turned out). In order for a girl to get to MJ, she needed to go through 4 undercover former narcotics detectives just to speak to Michael. She had to be approved by all 4 to make sure she wasn’t gonna say a damn word about MJ to anyone. So there’s MJ, not the greatest character guy, but he sure was pretty smart.
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