Starved for New Content

By Zach Maizel '04
Athletic Director

In this new short term reality we are living in, where there are no live sports, fans like myself are starved for new content. The NFL Draft did a fantastic job of breaking up the monotony of the same old conversation topics about Tom Brady and reopening plans. The draft helped to freshen the pot, but I feel like the best content has come from a great sense of nostalgia. 

I was born in 1986, so the 1990s were the stomping grounds for my young life. Many of the phones were still on cords, plaid was big, snap bracelets, the internet began to take hold and sitcoms were all the rage. Oh yeah, the macarena was one of the only dances I could actually perform properly (I have a bit of an Elaine from Seinfeld type of dancing style). While I wasn’t a keen dancer, there was a ‘last dance’ going in Chicago. The new documentary “The Last Dance” on ESPN chronicles the 1998 Chicago Bulls season, where the two-time defending champions were going for their second “three-peat” of the decade, all while dealing with the fact that it was ending and the drama that surrounded it. 

The first four episodes have done an amazing job of painting the picture and showing a never before seen account of the 1990’s most dominant team. The Bulls had won the 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, and 1997 NBA championships. With the world's best player, Michael Jordan, another top-five player in Scottie Pippen and the NBA’s best defensive and rebounding player in Dennis Rodman, the Bulls looked like an unbeatable juggernaut led by the brilliant (and quirky) head coach Phil Jackson. Behind the scenes though, the documentary brilliantly shows the fascinating drama that seemed not needed during this unbelievable run.

Sure there was a dominant player, in mind and body, in Jordan, a hair dyed, wild man in Rodman and a spiritual hippy head coach in Jackson, but they easily worked well together for the one singular goal of winning the NBA title. You would think the drama would resonate with the differences in personality, but it came from a source that felt unnecessary during a time of great success. It’s understandable to look to the future as a General Manager, as the coaches and players focus on the task at hand. It came down to an eye to the future and their GM, Jerry Krause. 

Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf saw that the players around Jordan were aging and potentially needed replacing. As they saw it, Jordan was the center of it all and the rest were movable pieces. Krause and Jackson started off with an okay relationship as he was promoted to head coach and started a run of success Chicago fans could never dream of at the time. Taking over for Doug Collins, who had made great strides with Jordan and the Bulls, bringing them to the conference finals, where they lost to the NBA champions from Detroit in 1989. Collins did wonders for Jordan, helping to build his confidence as not only an NBA star but the best in the world. Jordan’s streak of 7 consecutive scoring titles started with Collins at the helm, who molded the team’s gameplan to run through Jordan. In Collins’ first season, Jordan averaged a career-high 37.1 points per game. Jackson took over in 1989 and instituted the triangle offense, which complemented Jordan’s style rather than focusing on it and took the load off his shoulders a bit. It proved to be the spark that got the Bulls over the hump, where the stigma was that Jordan could win scoring titles, but not NBA titles.

After the disappointment of another Eastern Conference finals loss to Detroit in 7 games in that season, Jackson, Jordan, and the Bulls started a run of championships that would dominate a majority of the decade. Going into the 1998 season, the Bulls had won 5 championships in 7 years, the storylines were rich with controversy as two of the team's biggest pieces, Jackson and Pippen were wildly underpaid for the levels they were at. Rather than staying loyal to the parts that made these 90s Bulls teams great, Krause saw this as a moment to rebuild. The way he went about certainly ruffled the feathers of Jackson and Pippen and in turn, Jordan. Jordan loved playing for Jackson, after he acclimated to the triangle offense, and stated he would not play for another coach in Chicago. 

I understand from a business and management standpoint of looking to the future, but these people were iconic in the sports world of the 90s, and Krause did not treat them that way. Krause told Jackson it would be his final year in Chicago and did not give Pippen the contract he so desperately deserved after taking a 7 year $18 million contract when he was drafted. At the point where all of this drama started coming to a head, Pippen was the 6th highest-paid player...ON THE BULLS! It’s a wild story where we know how it ends, but the journey and hearing from the mouths of the players, coaches, writers, and executives of Chicago is absolutely fascinating. As we move through this journey of our own in social distancing and isolation, I feel like these nostalgic moments are something that can guide us through and give us a renewed excitement for sports and conversation, even when there are very few new events happening. I’ve found myself revisiting my childhood memories of sports and entertainment (I’ve watched a lot of old WWE matches) to get me by while I wait for the whistles to start blowing again. Tune in on Sundays at 9 pm on ESPN. You won’t regret it. 

Zach is a 2004 graduate of Marvelwood. He was appointed Athletic Director in 2015 and has has been the head wrestling coach since 2009. Under his leadership, the Marvelwood wrestling program has produced 19 state place winners, seven All-New England wrestlers and one Honorable Mention All-American.

Prior to Marvelwood, Zach worked at Cumulus Media in Brookfield, CT, where he was the executive producer of "The Carey and Coffey Show," a NASCAR sports talk show on 940/1510 AM. He also worked in the promotions department for 95.1 WRKI (I95) and 105.5 WDBY. Zach is originally from New Milford, CT, where his parents Raymond and Karen Maizel still reside; his father is the veterinarian/owner of Candlewood Animal Hospital. Zach’s sister Liza joined the faculty in 2013, teaching Spanish and Math. They also have a younger brother, Charlie, who is a golf professional at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, NY. Zach enjoys coaching, as well as watching and competing in lacrosse, soccer, and wrestling. In his down time, Zach hangs with his dog, Abbey, who lives with him in Star Dorm.