Few career resurrections have been as quick, or surprising, as
that of Tim Floyd, whose 49-190 record with the Bulls was the
worst of any coach in major pro sports history with 200
decisions. After a mere 18 months out of the league he not only
returned to a head position in the NBA, but at week's end had
also guided the veteran Hornets to a 10-4 start despite the
absence of All-Star forward Jamal Mashburn (right knee surgery).
Behind a new up-tempo system, New Orleans has morphed from a
power team into a transition team along the lines of the Nets--a
similarity that's not coincidental.
After Hornets owner George Shinn let Paul Silas go last spring,
he wanted a replacement who could draw fans. Floyd had been a
well-liked coach at the University of New Orleans (127-58 from
1988 to '94) and had made the Big Easy his post-Bulls home. He
also fit into Shinn's price range, which is to say bargain
basement, accepting a three-year, $4.8 million deal. As for
Floyd's .205 winning percentage in Chicago, assistant G.M. Allan
Bristow says, "I think of the Bulls as his boot camp. He'd
already taken all his lumps, and we get the benefit."
During his time away from the sideline, Floyd became enamored
with the Nets' unselfish style, which is based on the Princeton
offense. After getting the New Orleans job, he spent two weeks
last summer traveling to meet with the Hornets, asking them,
among other things, how receptive they'd be to playing New
Jersey-style. "I wanted to do it, but I wanted their approval,"
says Floyd, who had to run the triangle offense in Chicago. "They
were all intrigued, so we went with it."
There was one problem: Floyd didn't know the first thing about
implementing the system. So he hired Jan van Breda Kolff, who'd
been an assistant under Princeton coach Pete Carril from 1987 to
'91. Then, to prepare himself and his staff, Floyd found some
willing test subjects--in this case the players at Pearl River
Junior College in Poplarville, Miss.--and, like a scientist
heading into the lab, started concocting. For six days in July
and six in August, the New Orleans coaches ran the juco team
Pleased with the results, Floyd installed the offense with the
Hornets, creating a high-scoring run-and-dish motion game. Like
the Nets, New Orleans uses a two-guard front and brings three
players across the foul line, relies on precision cuts and
pushing the ball in transition, and depends on the leadership of
a dynamic point guard--Baron Davis playing the role of Jason
Davis, an early season MVP candidate, has taken to the offense
like John Madden to a 20-pound turkey. Freed of having to run
isolation plays, a staple under Silas, he can now drive, create
for his teammates and generally wreak havoc. "Coach is letting me
do my thing," says Davis, who was averaging 25.2 points and 8.1
assists at week's end. "I've got a lot more freedom and"--he
smiles--"freedom's a good thing, man."
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN (DAVIS) Davis is having a ball in the Princeton offense, which Floydlearned last summer.
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES [See caption above]