- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

After seeing former Chicago Bulls teammate-turned-general manager John Paxson fire Scott Skiles for his team’s 9-16 start, Scottie Pippen made it known he wants to be Chicago’s next coach.

Pippen’s name hadn’t been mentioned by the Bulls as a potential replacement, which Paxson said won’t be named until after this season. But Scottie obviously prefers to take an aggressive approach rather than sitting and waiting for a call.

“What’s my disadvantage? No NBA coaching experience?” Pippen told the Chicago Tribune last week. “Skiles’ record with the Bulls wasn’t that great. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do what you’ve done your whole life. I’ve played basketball, run teams and won.

“They didn’t put me at point guard because I could dribble [well],” Pippen continued. “They put me there because I could run a team. I wasn’t the best dribbler, the best shooter. I wasn’t a point guard. But I knew how to run a team.”

Pippen boasts an impressive resume as a player. In addition to playing Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman during six title runs from 1991 to 1998, Pippen earned eight All-Defensive first-team selections and in 1997 was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.

The seven-time All-Star averaged 19.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.2 steals during the Bulls’ glory years. And Jordan considers him the best defender he has ever seen.

There’s a long-standing belief, however, that great players don’t make great coaches, partly because the game comes so naturally to them that they struggle to teach what it takes to succeed. And most NBA coaches would have you believe coaching isn’t as easy as it looks.

When asked last week about Pippen’s chances of succeeding as a coach, Phil Jackson cautioned that Pippen — who once served as a special assistant to Jackson in Los Angeles — needs more time to understand “the nuances of how you teach and [become] an educator.”

But obviously there are exceptions to both arguments.

Larry Bird, having no coaching experience, went 147-67 in three seasons, taking the Indiana Pacers to three Eastern Conference finals and an NBA Finals appearance in 2000.

Pat Riley was a Lakers assistant for only a short time before beginning a career that now includes five titles. Most recently, Avery Johnson served on Don Nelson’s staff in Dallas for less than a full season before taking over as coach. He guided the Mavericks to the NBA Finals in 2006 and was named coach of the year the same season.

Pippen probably can succeed as a coach. His role with the Bulls required him to understand not only his own place within the triangle offense but the responsibilities of his teammates. He might have hurt his chances last week by criticizing Bulls guards Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon, calling them midgets and adding that Hinrich isn’t talented and Gordon is “shooting for a contract,” but Pippen deserves a shot.

His jersey hangs from the rafters at United Center, and he definitely would put people in the seats. But more importantly, Pippen has the drive of a champion. The Bulls already have a piece of the dynasty in Paxson, whose shrewd moves transformed the post-Jordan Bulls from perennial losers into playoff contenders in each of the last three seasons. Why not try adding another piece?

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