“YOU DON’T PUT A SADDLE ON A MUSTANG” Episodes 3 & 4 – the Rodman episodes

After the first two episodes set up the scene with MJ & Pip and established Jerry Krause as the villain of the series, episodes 3 & 4 got a lot more interesting, primarily thanks to Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson

THE WORM

We already covered a lot of what was depicted about Rodman – his difficult upbringing, his Pistons ascendance, the horrible time he had in San Antonio, and the wild parties during his Chicago days. Episodes 3 & 4 did a great job of showing us most people misunderstand Rodman off the court and on the court.

Rodman’s antics were a result of an introvert with a problematic upbringing wanting to fit in. As we saw with Chuck Daly and Phil Jackson – if someone understood where Dennis was coming from and allowed him to be himself, they would get the best defender/rebounder in the game. When he came into the league, Rodman was just a quiet, hardworking guy. His off-court persona was a reaction to the way he was portrayed – a consequence, not a cause. 

“Dennis was one of the smartest guys I played with. He understood defensive strategy, with all the rotations. He had no limits in terms of what he does.” 

Michael Jordan, The Last Dance

His coaches understood his past and why he was “wild” off the court, but the Bulls accepted him because of what he was on the court. This was the guy who was beating them up while on the Pistons, and his talent was so incredible they immediately took him in. Coaches often say rebounding and defending is about effort – primarily because that’S something everyone can improve on. That makes us think the best defenders are the ones that try hardest. That’s wrong – as it is on offense, you have to care, work hard AND be smart. Very, very smart. Here’s a lesson from prof. Rodman. 

THE ZEN MASTER

If there was one guy The Zen Master could relate to and see himself in him, that was – Dennis Rodman. Jackson was a rebounder, played rough and an outsider. A hippie in professional sports, Jackson didn’t care the dressed differently from most players, and told stories about dropping acid and hallucinating he’s a lion. For the NBA, Phil Jackson was as outside of the box as Dennis Rodman was. 

The other important thing to notice was the fact Jerry Krause noticed a former player who had coached in Puerto Rico and Albany as a great basketball mind. The Bulls GM talked their coach into giving Jackson an interview for an assistants position. Jackson came there looking like a hippie, and Stan Albeck didn’t care for it. Two years later, Krause got Jackson another shot, this time with Doug Collins, and told him to dress up a bit. He was in. 

After learning from another assistant, Tex Winter, Krause had the conviction for firing Doug Collins and promoting Jackson. The fact he fired a coach that just took them to the Eastern Conference Finals wasn’t the bravest thing about it. Jordan loved Collins and wasn’t enthusiastic about the triangle. Eight years later, MJ would say he would only play for Phil Jackson.