An interview with Millionaire Corner's Kent McDill, author of "If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box of the Chicago Bills Dynasty."
In 1988, after 10 years as a sportswriter for UPI, Kent McDill got an offer he couldn’t, but almost did, refuse: to cover the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper chain. Despite the presence of Michael Jordan, who joined the team in 1984, no one could foresee the team was a dynasty in the making and would go on to win six NBA championships. McDill spent every minute of his professional life with the Bulls during these years, and got to know the players on and off the court. He revisits those years in If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box of the Chicago Bulls Dynasty. McDill,a Millionaire Corner staff writer and author of 100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, spoke with us about his new book and the opportunity of a lifetime.
Q: Covering the Bulls during the dynasty years has to be considered a dream job.
KM: It was a remarkable opportunity and one that so many sportswriters simply don’t get to have. There are a lot of sportswriters who (after) 40 or 50 years never get to cover one championship team, and I got to cover six in eight years. I think about my colleagues in Cleveland, for instance, which hasn’t had a championship in any sport in 50 years, or anybody who covers the Sacramento Kings. They will never get the chance to do what I did. And as soon as Michael Jordan retired I realized my dream was over
Q: How did the opportunity come about?
KM: In 1988, the Daily Herald decided it would start competing with the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times in their sports coverage by hiring beat writers—writers who travel with the teams they cover. They were looking for a couple of guys, one to cover college basketball and football and one to cover the Chicago Bulls. I wanted the college football and basketball job because it was more in my wheelhouse. That year I was working as the sportswriter in Chicago for UPI, which at the time was a company falling apart, so I was looking for something else. I got the Bulls job, and was with them every single day.
Q: 1988 was three years before the first championship. What was it like to cover the team at that time?
KM: Everyone knew Michael Jordan was one of the great athletes ever to become a basketball player, but they didn’t know he would become the great basketball player he turned out to be. They had no idea that the guys around him would develop into a championship team. The Bulls acquired Bill Cartwright, they drafted Scottie Pippin and Horace Grant and all of sudden things started to come together. Each year they went a little bit farther into the playoffs until they won the title in 1991. But when I joined the team, it was Michael Jordan and the Jordanaires.
Q: The book is filled with stories about the Bulls, but it gives a feel for what it is like to be a sportswriter.
KM: The book is as much about sportswriting as it is about the Bulls. (For the players and the beat writers) there is a lot of downtime spent in hotels and restaurants and bars just hanging out. At some point you stop talking about game strategy and opponents and you talk about where and how they grew up and their families. I was lucky enough to see a side of the players that the fans don’t get to see. That is in the book.
Q: Covering the Bulls during those years must have made you popular at parties.
KM: It irritated my wife to no end that whenever we went out everyone wanted to talk about my job, and the stories I ended up telling were stories she heard before. I just had my 40th high school reunion; Some of these people I haven’t seen in 40 years and all they want to talk about is my 11 years with the Chicago Bulls A lot has happened in my life. I’ve got four kids and I want to talk about them. And when I asked someone what was going on in their life, they’d say, ‘Oh, nothing. Tell me about Michael Jordan.”
Kent will talk about Michael Jordan in part two of our interview.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.