Brendan Malone And The Jordan Rules


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Brendan Malone was a basketball coach who worked in the NBA as a head coach/member of the coaching staff for a long time. Brendan Malone also happens to be the father of NBA Champion head coach Mike Malone. All of that aside, Brendan Malone is very notorious for being a part of the Detroit Pistons coaching staff that devised the infamous “Jordan Rules” to combat the unstoppable basketball force that was Michael Jordan. Let’s find out more about Brendan Malone and The Jordan Rules.

Brendan Malone: From Catholic Youth Coach To The Jordan Rules

When was Brendan Malone born?

Brendan Malone was born in New York City on April 21, 1935. Brendan Malone’s father was a blue collar worker. 

Where did Brendan Malone study?

After completing his high school in New York City, Brendan Malone enrolled at Iona College. Even though he was a big basketball fan, he only played one game for the college basketball team. Brendan Malone graduated from college and immediately started a coaching career with the Catholic Youth Organization’s basketball team.

Brendan Malone: Coaching Career

Brendan Malone served as an assistant coach for college teams like Fordham, Syracuse, and Yale. He received his first-ever college head coaching job at the University Of Rhode Island. He coached the team for two years and left to serve as an assistant coach for the New York Knicks. After two seasons with the Knicks, Brendan Malone joined the Detroit Pistons to serve as an assistant to Chuck Daly and helped devise the infamous “Jordan Rules”.

Head Coaching Job

After a successful stint as an assistant coach for the Pistons, Brendan Malone was hired as a head coach by the Toronto Raptors in 1995. However, he only lasted a year as an assistant coach and went back to an assistant role with different NBA teams over the rest of his coaching career.

What were the Jordan Rules?

When you talk about Michael Jordan, dozens of moments full of epic and disbelief about what he could achieve come to mind. Jordan was capable of winning a game by himself and no one could do anything to stop him. However, the group of Detroit Bad Boys worked on that theory and managed to overturn it, at least for a while.

At the end of the 1980s, one of the league’s strongest rivalries was beginning to take shape: Bulls-Pistons. Those from Chicago were beginning to put together the team that a few years later would win their first three-peat and those from Detroit, far from allowing this, were willing to make it clear to them that it was not going to be easy.

The focus was on eliminating a single player, the best of their team, Jordan. In Detroit, some physical players could shut down Jordan, as long as the plan was carried out perfectly. Those in charge of designing and expressing the Jordan Rules on the court: Isiah Thomas, who was one of Jordan’s most hated rivals, Joe Dummars, Bill Laimbeer and even who would be his teammate in the second three-peat, Dennis Rodman.

Why were the Jordan Rules devised?

After Michael Jordan dropped a monstrous 59 point game against the Detroit Pistons in April 1988, head coach Chuck Daly and his assistants Ron Rothstein, Dick Versace and Brendan Malone devised the “Jordan Rules”, a strategy with a singular purpose, stop Michael Jordan at all costs.

What constituted the Jordan Rules?

The plan was simple to say but difficult to do: constant marking on Michael in defense to prevent him from receiving the ball; also allow him to receive but, he barely had the ball in his hands, go in twos and even threes to mark him so that he has to release the ball quickly. Every time he attacked the rim, physically subduing him and forcing him to go to the left, where he was less effective. But not only in attack did they have to control him, but also in defense: whoever had Jordan’s mark had to grab the ball and penetrate to demand it and tire him out on that side of the court so that he would then have less energy to attack.

Did the Jordan Rules work?

These rules worked for three consecutive seasons since, in the 1988, 1989 and 1990 playoffs, the Pistons qualified for the next round and, in fact, on two occasions, they ended up with the championship trophy in their cabinets (1989 and 1990). After that came the first three-peat for the Bulls, who after several attempts managed to overcome such harshness and establish themselves in the most important league in the world.

Did the Jordan Rules help popularize the NBA?

Joe Dumars, one of the leaders of that team, once joked about the Jordan Rules: “In this order: the Da Vinci code, the Coca Cola recipe and the Jordan Rules.” A game strategy that made the Pistons better, Jordan himself in his tireless fight to overcome the limits, and the league in general, which enjoyed one of the best rivalries of all time, on and off the court.

The only way to stop Michael Jordan was through foul play. In the ’80s, no one represented him better in the NBA than the Pistons. The ‘Bad Boys’ earned that nickname hard and the Bulls guard was the one who suffered the most. He finally managed to overcome them to reign in the League, but in his first years he crashed several times due to the toughness of the Detroit team.

Were the Detroit Pistons targeting Michael Jordan before the Jordan Rules were implemented?

The Pistons even devised ‘The Jordan Rules’, a defensive system designed to minimize the offensive impact of Michael Jordan. “If he gets into the paint, throw him on the ground,” read one of the rules. Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer were the apostles of that kind of defense. Laimbeer took it to the extreme in a regular season game in October 1985. It was the most brutal blow that Michael Jordan received throughout his career.

How did Michael Jordan receive his worst hit?

Jordan got rid of a first defender on the left side of the Bulls’ attack, then entered the zone and found Laimbeer, against whom he wanted to score from behind the rim, but the center did not allow it. He hit him in the head with his left forearm and with his right arm he pushed the guard to the ground, trying to comply with the rule. The blow did not stop Michael Jordan from getting up like a spring looking for his attacker. He had to be restrained so that a brawl wouldn’t start.

Those who did confront each other were the team coaches. Stan Albeck, from the Bulls, went to the Pistons bench to reproach Chuck Daly for the harshness of his team. The two got into a heated argument that ended with both of them expelled. “We didn’t want to be dirty on defense. I know some people thought so, but we had to make contacts and be very physical,” Daly, who in 1992 led the original Dream Team in the Barcelona Games with Jordan in its ranks, explained later.

The Bulls guard scored 33 points that day and his team ended up winning 121-118. In that season and the next, Chicago was eliminated by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs without winning a game. Over the three subsequent seasons, it was the Pistons who kicked them out, becoming Jordan’s biggest nightmare due to the results and the beatings he received. Finally, in 1991, the first ring arrived… and after beating the ‘Bad Boys’ in the Eastern Conference Finals 4-0, Michael Jordan had vanquished his greatest foe.

When did Brendan Malone die?

Brendan Malone died on October 10, 2023 in his New York City residence at the age of 88. His son Mike Malone continues his coaching legacy as a championship winning head coach in the NBA.

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