Bulls

Bulls' longtime public address announcer Tommy Edwards set to retire

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CHICAGO BULLS

Bulls' longtime public address announcer Tommy Edwards set to retire

Back in 1984, Tommy Edwards settled into his seat at the Biograph Theater to catch a movie with his wife when some ambient music started playing in the background.

“I told Mary Lou, ‘I know this song. It’s Sirius by the Alan Parsons Project,’” Edwards, a longtime disc jockey and radio programmer at WLS, said, referencing his wife. “The more I listened to it, I’m thinking, ‘Wait a minute. This could be the Bulls’ song.’”

The next day, Edwards bought the vinyl album, put it on his turntable at home and started practicing the Bulls’ starting lineup behind it.

“And because it has so many great parts to its intro---a new guitar part or crescendo---it worked great,” Edwards said. “The Bulls loved it immediately. Michael (Jordan) loved it. That’s been the opening lineup music ever since.”

The song actually has become a cultural phenomenon, played at weddings and bar mitzvahs and in sporting venues around the world. And it will last beyond Edwards, who will serve his last game as Bulls public address announcer Saturday against the Houston Rockets.

Edwards, whose innovations and broadcasting chops helped transform in-game sports entertainment, worked in the role from 1976-1981 and 1983-1990 at the old Chicago Stadium and again from 2006 to the present at the United Center. He missed the championship years as his successful radio career took him to Boston and Los Angeles, where he will retire to be with his three children and four grandchildren.

“Mary Lou and I have always wondered what it would be like to have the entire year to do the things we want to do---travel, be with family. The nine months of the basketball season kept us from doing that. Now we’re going to be able to go to birthday parties all the time and do all the things grandparents do more frequently,” Edwards said. “Leaving is going to be bittersweet. I’m looking forward to being in Los Angeles with the kids and family. But I’m going to miss doing games. It’s part of my DNA.”

One day, Edwards finished his disc jockey shift at WLS and a sales manager who had a friend who worked for the Bulls told him the franchise needed a public address announcer. Edwards, who grew up in Topeka, Kansas, watching Wilt Chamberlain play in college, was a huge basketball fan.

“I said, ‘Wait a minute. So they want to pay me to go to games?’” Edwards said. “I thought about it for about a second and then said, ‘OK, I’ll audition.’”

He got the job. Originally, the in-game entertainment merely consisted of Edwards on a microphone and organist Nancy Faust working her magic. But the Bulls recognized an opportunity to use Edwards’ musical knowledge and ability to dub music from his radio station to bring to the Stadium.

“When the game got very exciting, I would play a song called ‘Rock and Roll, Part 2’ by Gary Glitter,” Edwards said. “Opposing teams would call me and ask what song that was.”

When the Bulls drafted Jordan, marketing officials worked with Edwards to come up with something special for the potential star. They had already teamed to be the first in the league to turn off the lights for starting lineup introductions in 1977. At first, Edwards used Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to introduce Jordan and the other starters. Some games, he’d experiment with the theme song from the hit TV show “Miami Vice.”

And then Edwards heard “Sirius,” the instrumental introduction to the song “Eye In The Sky.”

By this time, Edwards had begun using his “And now . . .” prelude to the starting lineup introductions. Per his then-young daughter’s request, he had permanently settled on using “the man in the middle” for the starting center intro after first trying the more simple “in the middle.”

One son served as a ballboy for nine years. His family grew up around the game. A big part of his life’s work has served as the soundtrack to many memorable sporting events.

“It’s been wonderful,” Edwards said. “I’ve had a great time.”

That includes great memories. Like the time then-announcer Johnny “Red” Kerr accidentally kicked a live wire underneath the scorer’s table, setting off the horn celebrating hockey goals just as Knicks’ Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing prepared to shoot free throws.

“Ewing looks over at us with fire in his eyes, like, ‘What are you doing?’ The officials did too,” Edwards said, laughing. “He bounced the ball to shoot again and it went off again. It looked like he was getting ready to come over to the table. The official jumped in front. He said, ‘What are you guys doing?’ We said, ‘We’re not doing anything!’ Meanwhile, the electrician is crawling under the table and finding the wire that Johnny Kerr is accidentally kicking.”

Or the time Darryl Dawkins, the dunker extraordinaire for the 76ers, got into a long conversation with Edwards and official scorer Bob Rosenberg about how much money his wife spent on a fur coat as he prepared to check into the game.

“Play stopped, the officials waved him on and he’s not paying attention. He’s talking to us,” Edwards said, laughing. “We’re saying, ‘Darryl, uh, you need to go in the game.’”

Or the one time Edwards forgot Kirk Hinrich hated having his name announced as he prepared to shoot free throws and Hinrich missed both shots.

“I felt terrible,” Edwards said. “I loved Kirk.”

Or the time Derrick Rose approached Edwards and asked him to play Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” because he heard it once at a Bulls game as a kid.

“I’m going to miss my friends, the guys and girls at the (scorers) table. We all have to rely on each other so much,” Edwards said. “I’ll miss watching the players up close and appreciating the incredible talent they have. I’m going to miss working for Jerry Reinsdorf. He’s terrific. He has built such an incredible organization.

“Chicago fans are incredible. I’ll remember moments like when Joakim (Noah) stole the ball from (Paul) Pierce and went down and dunked and the crowd went crazy. I’m there with a microphone and I can’t hear myself on these giant speakers because the crowd is so loud. It’s so exciting to be a part of that.”

After Saturday, Edwards no longer will be.

“But I’ll still be a huge Bulls fan,” he said. “That doesn’t change.”

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Without linear growth, the silver linings of Bulls' loss to Heat ring hollow

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USA Today

Without linear growth, the silver linings of Bulls' loss to Heat ring hollow

Trailing the Heat 108-105 with four seconds remaining in overtime, the ball found Lauri Markkanen. He was pinned in the corner and leaning away from the basket, but still, he got a clean 3-point attempt off. If the shot fell, it would have tied the game.

But it didn't. Instead, the high-arching jumper clanged off the side of the rim. And when it did, Coby White — who enjoyed, in many ways, a career performance in this game — slumped over. The response befitted the performance.

"Nobody likes to lose. We're not happy with the loss," Jim Boylen said. "I got a frustrated group of guys in there that want to win."

It's a defeat that, on its face, should be swallowable. In it, the Bulls played one of the league's best teams in the Heat down to the wire, in an arena they haven't lost in this season. The silver linings were abundant: The Bulls won the first quarter, an area Boylen has often emphasized. They got standout performances from Markkanen (team-high 22 points), Kris Dunn (16 points, three steals, 6-for-9 shooting) and White (11 points, eight assists, 3-for-7 from 3-point range, closed the fourth quarter and OT). They outshot one of the NBA's most prolific offenses and held Jimmy Butler to 3-for-14 shooting. Sure, he went to the free throw line 21 times, but he also didn't break the Bulls' back with clutch buckets down the stretch.

"It's real hard. But we gave them some game goals, and they accomplished them," Boylen said. "First quarter start. Be more physical. For the most part, our defensive rebounding was really good. Our transition D was really good. Our physicality was good. We moved the ball, we executed. We ran things to get open shots.

"We did a lot of really good thing and that's what I have to look at. Ultimately, you want to win. I cannot take away from the good things we do and the growth we're making. But it hurts."

Yet, something feels especially hollow about this loss. Even sour. But perhaps that's more about what came before tonight. Talk of growth doesn't resonate without assurance that said growth will continue to occur lineally, and that hasn't happened for the Bulls. Just last week, they sparked their first win streak of the season with victories over the Kings and Grizzlies. Steps forward. Then, a massive step back in falling to the 5-19 Warriors on Friday.

The tropes that pervaded the Golden State game reared their head again tonight. Zach LaVine was 1-for-6 between the fourth quarter and overtime. Loose balls found the wrong hands. Crucial defensive lapses late aided Tyler Herro nailing four 3-pointers (including the eventual game-winner) over the game's last six minutes.

"The one that [Herro] put up before the overtime, Shaq actually did a good job on [Butler] defensively and I thought [Butler] was gonna shoot the ball, so I went in there and crashed," Dunn said of the 3-pointer Herro hit to put the Heat up 97-95 with 7.1 seconds left in regulation. "[Butler] made an unselfish play, a great play out to Tyler Herro and he knocked it down... Jimmy does draw a lot of attention, he's a good player, but we have to be defensively sound. And, for me, that last play before the overtime, that was on me."

At 8-16, the Bulls simply can't afford to be happy with an 'encouraging' loss, even if they wish they could be. The balance of finding and taking the positives from this defeat while at the same reconciling that this season is escaping them is a difficult one.

"[Winning] is important, but I have to measure this — third-youngest team in the league, this young group — in other ways than that. I have to. That's what we're building, that's what we're developing," Boylen said.

"Definitely frustrated to lose, but we played well, a lot of guys played well," Dunn said. "Good thing about the NBA, games come quick... Tomorrow, we play Toronto at home so hopefully bring the same intensity and get the win there."

If that win is of the moral variety, the burning issues facing this team aren't like to dissipate soon.

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Four observations: Bulls play Miami tough, but lose in a heartbreaker

Four observations: Bulls play Miami tough, but lose in a heartbreaker

The Bulls scrapped, but fell to the Heat 110-105 in a hard-fought overtime showdown in Miami. Observations from a defeat, snapped from the jaws of a potentially season-turning victory:

Bulls got off to fast start

The last time these two teams met, the Bulls played themselves out of the game early, allowing the Heat to jump out to a 15-0 lead in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the first quarter. Not so tonight. The Bulls came out of the gates locked in defensively and (for the most part) hunted good looks on the offensive end:

They held Miami to 4-for-15 (26.7%) shooting and forced five turnovers en route to a 25-16 lead after one. Of course, the Heat punched back, making nine of their first 10 shots in the second, but the Bulls clung to a 49-47 lead at the halftime break.

Boylen emptied the bench (again)

By the 3:13 mark in the second quarter, all 12 available Bulls had seen game action. Last week, Jim Boylen said that he had intentionally begun to lean on the starters over the course of the team’s recent west coast swing, but him emptying the bench early in games has continued.

Part of that occurring tonight had to do with early foul trouble for Daniel Gafford, who picked up three fouls in a two-minute span in the first quarter. Luke Kornet logged three largely unproductive minutes early in the second quarter, presumably in Gafford’s stead.

Overall, though, the bench brought just about everything you could ask of it for most of the night. Denzel Valentine and Thad Young combined for 23 points and stroked a couple timely 3-pointers to keep the Bulls in the game in the second and third quarters. Coby White shot only 3-for-9, but finished the night with a career-high (!) eight assists. Even Shaq Harrison had a couple feisty moments.

Late-game adjustments were made, but similar mistakes persisted

After Friday’s loss to Golden State, Jim Boylen faced questions about his decision to roll with his starters for the game’s final eight minutes. Tonight, he adjusted, closing the fourth quarter and overtime with Coby White on the floor over Tomas Satoransky.

The Bulls’ general execution, though, remained spotty. There were positives: Before fouling out late in OT, Kris Dunn had seven points and two steals between the final two periods. Lauri Markkanen — after coming alive with a 13-point spurt in the third quarter — had a gorgeous take and finish to put the Bulls up 95-94 with under a minute left in the fourth. White had a couple dazzling moments, and Zach LaVine’s two free throws with 2.8 seconds left in regulation were a necessary response to what could have been a game-ending Tyler Herro 3-pointer seconds before.

 

But there were too many mental lapses, once again. Zach LaVine made one field goal between the fourth quarter and OT, and shot 5-for-19 for the game. Defensive breakdowns popped up at inopportune times. On one, Bam Adebayo positioned himself as if to set a screen for Herro — when the Bulls blitzed, Adebayo slipped, and ended up finishing an and-one layup over a scrambling Carter (the Bulls gave up two Draymond Green-initiated alley-oops late in the Golden State game on similar plays).

Then, on the Heat’s final possession of regulation, the Bulls switched the pick-and-roll, but a soft help by Kris Dunn (attempting to aid Shaq Harrison guarding Jimmy Butler) left Herro wide open for a 3-pointer that gave the Heat a 97-95 lead. Herro broke the Bulls’ back on a number of occasions in this one — he had 18 points and shot 4-for-8 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter and overtime.

This was just an outrageously fun game — but the taste left from it is undeniably sour

We may look back at this game as one of the foundational performances of White’s rookie campaign. As mentioned, he didn’t shoot particularly well, but him closing out the game’s final 17 (!!) minutes — and scoring six points with three assists in doing so — will assuredly prove valuable to his development. He wasn’t perfect, but he validated Boylen’s trust in him.

And until Herro caught fire late, the Bulls did an overall good job maintaining their defensive intensity and not allowing any of the Heat’s ancillary flamethrowers to get going. Butler wore them down — accumulating 21 free throw attempts in the game — but the Bulls can hang their hat on holding him to 3-for-14 shooting and not allowing him to beat them down the stretch.

Ultimately, the pain behind this loss — which you could see in the players’ on-court reactions at the final buzzer — is more about what has come before. On the heels of the Warriors game, pulling this one out could have been a season-changer. But they came up short. There were abundant silver linings, but also the familiar tropes of stagnant late-game offense, costly turnovers and defensive lapses.

The Bulls get back to work in Chicago tomorrow night against the Toronto Raptors. 

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