Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant Skipped Bulls Practice After Pippen’s Cat Died, and Assistant Coach Johnny Bach Was Absolutely Furious: ‘You Oughta Throw the Cat in the Garbage Can’
Chicago Bulls legends Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant entered the NBA together in 1987 and developed a close bond. Most people assumed that Pippen was close with Michael Jordan, but he actually had a better relationship with Grant.
Pippen and Grant were so inseparable that they skipped Bulls practice one day after the former’s cat died. Grant wanted to be there for Pippen since his best friend had just lost his pet, but legendary assistant coach Johnny Bach was having none of it.
Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant got yelled at by Johnny Bach
In Roland Lazenby’s biography of Michael Jordan, former Bulls trainer Mark Pfeil talked about the day Pippen and Grant skipped practice after Pip’s cat died and how angry Bach was.
“Scottie called in one day and skipped practice because his cat died,” Pfeil said. “Horace called about fifteen minutes later and said he was with Scottie because of the grieving. Johnny Bach, our assistant coach, was absolutely furious. He got Horace on the phone and said, ‘You get here. You oughta throw the cat in the garbage can.’ Horace, when the team got together, wanted to have a moment of silence for Scottie’s cat.”
Bach was an assistant coach on the Bulls during the first three-peat. Like Jordan, he took practice very seriously, which is why the two got along so well.
Pippen and Grant may have angered Bach and Jordan for not coming to practice because of a dead cat, but they undoubtedly played a significant role in the Bulls’ success.
Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant were stars
The Bulls won three straight titles in 1991, 1992, and 1993. Pippen averaged 19.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 6.6 assists during that span, while Grant put up 13.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
After Jordan retired in 1993, Pippen and Grant became the leaders of the Bulls. They guided Chicago to 55 wins in 1993-94, and each player made the All-Star team. Pippen won the 1994 All-Star Game MVP and also finished third in regular-season MVP voting.
Behind Pippen and Grant, the Bulls defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 1994 playoffs, setting up a clash with the New York Knicks in the semifinals. During Game 3 of the Knicks series, Pippen refused to go in on the final possession after Phil Jackson drew up the game-winning shot for Toni Kukoc instead of him. Kukoc made the game-winner, but Grant and the rest of his teammates were puzzled why Pippen acted the way he did.
After Pippen apologized to his teammates, the Bulls won Game 4, lost Game 5, and won Game 6. Chicago and New York played a tough Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, and despite Pippen scoring a game-high 20 points, the Knicks won by 10 to advance to the conference finals.
May 22, 1994, was the final game Pippen and Grant played together. Before the 1994-95 season, Grant signed with the Orlando Magic, leaving Pippen all alone in Chicago since Jordan was still playing baseball. Fortunately for the Bulls, MJ came out of retirement near the end of the 1994-95 season.
Pippen and Jordan faced Grant in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Bulls and Magic played a fairly even series, but Grant got the last laugh.
Magic beat Bulls in six games
The Magic beat the Bulls in six games in thrilling fashion, handing Jordan his only playoff series loss from 1991 to 1998. Grant averaged 18.0 points and 11.0 rebounds and got revenge against the Bulls for not paying him in free agency.
Orlando beat the Indiana Pacers in the conference finals to advance to the NBA Finals. Grant was presumably looking forward to winning a championship without Pippen and Jordan and rubbing it in their faces. However, the Magic got swept by the Houston Rockets.
Pippen and Jordan rebounded nicely in 1995-96, leading the Bulls to 72 wins in the regular season. Chicago and Orlando met in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals, and Grant and Co. had no chance. The Bulls swept the Magic and went on to win the title over the Seattle SuperSonics.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference