Blackhawks coach Craig Hartsburg's perspective on Michael Jordan, 90s Bulls

Alex Shapiro
NBC Sports Chicago

What was it like coaching in Chicago while Michael Jordan and the Bulls dominated the world?

To find out, NBC Sports Chicago hosted a roundtable discussion on Wednesday, featuring coaches not named Phil Jackson who coached in Chicago in the 90s.

Included on that panel was Craig Hartsburg who was at the helm of the Blackhawks during the Bulls' second three-peat. Coaching for the Blackhawks gave Hartsburg a unique perspective, as his team shared the United Center with the Bulls.

However, Hartsburg said that didn't make much of a difference since he was so focused on hockey.

"You are absorbed with your own team for the most part," Hartsburg said. "But you have to be a complete moron at that point not to know there was something special going on in Chicago with the basketball team.

"We were in the same building but when we were there, they weren't there, and obviously when they were there we were out of town. So we didn't really cross over that much.

"And I know when I was in Chicago, I wasn't a huge basketball fan, but obviously what was going on there with the Bulls was something special."

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Even though he wasn't a basketball fan, Hartsburg felt a noticeable lift from the Bulls' success.

"I think winning can be contagious with the city," Hartsburg said. "I think it raised the bar for everybody at that time, that we had something to try to chase. Obviously none of us could catch it. They were a pretty special group that Bulls team."

Moving to Michael Jordan specifically, Hartsburg spoke about leadership qualities he saw in the NHL, and the similarities to Jordan in "The Last Dance."

"Work habits and work ethic," Hartsburg said. "I think anybody that's a top player or a great leader, that's the first intangible they have, is they have superior work habits. The other thing is that desire, that fire inside to win and to be the best. You look at a Gretzky or a Mark Messier. You look at the Hawks when I was there, a Chris Chelios.

"They demanded so much of themselves that it carried over to their teammates. Some of them, all they had to do was stare at players and they felt like I better get going. Or verbally, sometimes they'd need to talk. But for the most part it's just their actions and if you weren't pulling your weight, you'd feel embarrassed, especially the effort that those guys would put in.

"There's probably less verbal things said to their teammates. It's how you go about your business in practice, your preparation. The full season there's no down time for those players and their teammates notice that.

"So the work habits, and the fire from inside that you will do whatever it takes to win. So watching Michael Jordan, he had those two things inside of him, for sure."

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Blackhawks coach Craig Hartsburg's perspective on Michael Jordan, 90s Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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