Sam Smith Rumors
I went to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, interned at the Associated Press in Israel and worked at ESPN for nearly seven years. But I think my best journalism education has come from sitting next to Sam Smith in the media room at the United Center. I’ve cherished our talks before and after games and I can still remember how he chided me (and pretty much everyone else) for assuming Derrick Rose would come back during that fateful lost season in 2012-13. Sam didn’t believe he was coming back and this was well before the tumult started about Rose’s failed return. I should’ve listened to him. So it’s always nice to talk to him about his most famous book, “The Jordan Rules,” which got some TV time during “The Last Dance.”
Sam isn’t the biggest self-promoter, so how did he come up with the idea before the Bulls’ fateful 1990-91 season? “I modeled it after David Halberstam’s ‘Breaks of the Game,’” he said. “I always liked how he did a book that followed that season and backtracked into the players’ lives to get the humanity of it superimposed on current events. When I proposed this project, I literally went to a publisher housed across the street from the Tribune. I went up by myself and told them my idea. I wrote out a proposal and they offered me $4,000 for an advance. I said I’m not in this for the money, but I need to buy a computer and pay for babysitting. I said I need $6,000 and he said couldn’t afford it.”
“She’s getting rejection letters, 8-10 rejection letters,” he said. “‘Sam Smith? Who’s this? Michael Jordan? He never won anything.’ But she works out a deal with Simon & Schuster for like $25,000. She kind of used that offer as leverage and got another publisher involved and she got an advance of $50,000 (from Simon & Schuster). That’s big money, more than I was making at the Tribune actually.” Smith didn’t imagine the season would end in a championship, and he claims he had no idea the book would blow up as it did.
Roland Lazenby: In an interview with Hoopshype, Sam Smith accused me of engaging in conspiracy theories related to his anonymous sources in his book, The Jordan Rules. Nothing could be further from the truth. My reporting about the firing of Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach in 1994 was based on on-the-record interviews with a variety of Bulls team figures and even Smith himself. As I was writing my book “Blood On The Horns” about the “Last Dance” season in 1997–98, Phil Jackson told me in recorded, on-the-record interviews several harsh, sometimes gross things, about Bulls executive Jerry Krause, Jackson’s boss.
Roland Lazenby: Both men were furious at Jackson’s comments and made on the record comments about Phil Jackson’s deceit in regard to the beloved Johnny Bach, who was fired by Jackson for allegedly providing Sam Smith with the bulk of the inside information about the team for The Jordan Rules. Both men said they agreed to allow Jackson to fire Bach only because Jackson persuaded them to do it by telling them Bach was a major anonymous voice in The Jordan Rules.
Roland Lazenby: In addition, I did an interview with Krause in which he told of his tearful apology to Bach sometime later after the assistant coach was working for another team. I then contacted Bach, and the former Bulls assistant confirmed these events and the details in a subsequent on-the-record interview about the matter. The shock of being fired had led to Bach having a heart attack and going through a very rough period in his life, he told me.
Roland Lazenby: Two other Bulls staffers confirmed the events of Jackson’s firing Bach, providing me with yet more confirmation of the circumstances. Those on-the-record sources included the team’s chairman, Krause, Bach and Smith himself, who did not deny his disclosure to Reinsdorf.