'I have a big story coming your way': How McDill broke news of Pippen wanting to leave Bulls
Kent McDill is the missing voice in "The Last Dance" documentary, which debuted on ESPN Sunday.
The former Daily Herald Bulls beat writer is the only person who worked as a full-time, traveling beat writer during the entire Bulls championship era. His insight was not included in the documentary, but he'll review the episodes and share his memories with Mike McGraw each week while the series airs.
MM: You were literally the missing voice in the Scottie Pippen episode, when they talked about him saying he'd never play for the Bulls again. He told that to you, right?
KM: On two different occasions, someone on the show said, "Scottie told a writer." I looked at my boys and go, "I don't know why they won't say my name." It was so weird that so much of that was extremely personal to me.
MM: Yeah, the story all came back to me too. When did Scottie tell you that?
KM: It was the circus trip, we were in Los Angeles to play the Clippers at the Sports Arena. Scottie wasn't playing but he was on the trip. There was a space between him and Ron Harper's lockers before the game. I went up and said, "When do you think you're going to be able to get back?" And he said, "I'm never coming back."
I just thought he was kidding. I said, "What do you mean?" He clearly said, "I'm not going to play for the Bulls any more. I'm tired of being jerked around." Ron Harper heard him say it and said, "Scottie, don't say that (stuff)." So we talked a little more about it, but I didn't take him seriously.
The next game we were in Sacramento and before the game I was on press row. Scottie walks up to me and he goes, "When are you going to write that story?" I said, "You were serious?" And he goes, "Yeah, I'm serious. I don't want to play for the Bulls any more." Scottie and I went off to a little side area and he gave me a few more quotes.
I called (night sports editor) Don Friske and said, "I have a big story coming your way." Jerry Krause was on the trip, so I got a quote from him. I sent in the story and told Don I'd have a Michael Jordan quote after the game. Jordan was great, he said, "I back any decision Scottie makes."
"I was in that bad Hyatt in Sacramento and my phone rang at like 5:30 or 6 the next morning and it was ESPN wanting me to be on with Dan Patrick. So I get on with Patrick and I'm telling him the story. He could not have been ruder about the lack of respect for the Daily Herald. He basically wanted me to provide my credentials. It was all just ridiculous.
MM: Another thing I liked about the episode, I thought they did a good job with Pippen's background story, going back to Arkansas and talking to his family. I've read so much about Jordan. Roland Lazenby's book "The Life" told you everything you could ever ask for about Jordan's life. There have been good books written about Dennis Rodman's relationship with the Rich family when he was in college at Southeast Oklahoma. But people haven't written about Scottie as much and I thought that was cool.
KM: The one consideration I always had with Scottie, especially when it came to his money issues, was there are very few players who came from less than Scottie Pippen did. They didn't mention it Sunday, but from what I heard, the home he grew up in had dirt floors. They said early on both parents were working and healthy, but with 12 kids, even two healthy parents would have difficulty. Then with his dad's stroke, things got really difficult.
MM: It also made me wonder how that season would have played out if they pulled trigger on that Scottie trade to Boston and had rookies Tracy McGrady and Ron Mercer on the team instead. Scottie did miss almost half the season. I don't think Jordan would have quit if they traded Pippen, but it would have been interesting to see how that played out.
KM: I don't know how close it came to that trade taking place. Krause always said he was always willing to listen when other called him.
MM: The story I heard was they were in the room and were ready to do it and assistant GM Jim Stack stood up and said, "Wait a minute, what are we doing here? All our focus should be on winning championships." Jerry Reinsdorf took credit for nixing it Sunday, but that's the story I remember hearing.
Krause was another major figure in the early episodes. My son said to me it felt like they made the documentary to make everyone hate Krause. What kind of feelings does Jerry give you when you look back?
KM: I refuse to hate the guy. I know what Jerry's life was like growing up. It couldn't have been fun. He was small and not built like a normal human and clearly had personality issues. One thing I always said -- without Krause, there's no Rodman, there's no Pippen, there's no Toni Kukoc. That's pretty significant.
Then at the end we found out that Scottie was ranking on him as well, taking everything out on Jerry Krause, even though he did have a contract and Krause wasn't the one signing the paychecks. I felt bad about all of that.
MM: My theory on Krause -- like you mentioned, it couldn't have been easy for him growing up -- if he had been the nicest guy in the world, I think people might have walked all over him. By being kind of a lovable jerk, I think he forced people to take him seriously. If he hadn't had those very rough edges to him, I doubt if he gets as far as he did. Obviously, he had very thick skin and a big ego. It seemed like he didn't really want to be a villain, but he didn't mind being a villain if it helped them win.
KM: The other thing too was his relationship with Phil Jackson. His desire to get rid of Phil and prove somebody else could run things, hurt him a lot. He wanted Phil to kiss his ring on a regular basis for giving him the job. Phil never actually offered that kind of regard and Jerry took that the wrong way and then the whole Tim Floyd thing blew up. It just ended so badly. I'll tell you my one thought, "Thank God Jerry died." It would not have been a fun watch for him last night.
MM: Yeah, the Tim Floyd pursuit did not hold up well and it struck me how amazing it was that history repeated itself. The Bulls pushed Tom Thibodeau out because they had Fred Hoiberg waiting in the wings, another head coach at Iowa State. Both times they thought they could shortcut a rebuild and it failed.