Bill Cartwright was a key contributor to five NBA World Championships as a player or an assistant coach. He spent 16 years as a player in the NBA at center, one of the most difficult and physically demanding positions on the floor. On December 28, 2001, the Bulls put his 20 years of NBA experience to work, entering the next phase of their post-championship era by naming Cartwright the 14th head coach in team history.
In his first experience as a head coach at any level, Cartwright proved that he was equipped with the ability to garner the players’ respect. Displaying the ability to direct a group of young players, Cartwright dedicated himself to the development of rookies Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry. Additionally, he welcomed injured second-year guard Jamal Crawford back into the fold and facilitated the transitions of veteran trade acquisitions Jalen Rose and Travis Best into the team while leading the Bulls to a 17-38 (.309) record. The young Bulls enjoyed a pair of three-game winning streaks, went 6-7 (.462) in February and closed out the season winning four of their final six games. The Bulls improved their scoring, reaching 100+ points on 15 occasions under Cartwright. Following the encouraging start to his coaching career, Cartwright and the Bulls agreed to exercise a three-year option on his contract on March 11, 2002.
Prior to taking the reigns as head coach, Cartwright spent six seasons as an assistant coach with the Bulls following his hiring on September 3, 1996. As an assistant under Phil Jackson (1996-98) and Tim Floyd (1998-2001), Cartwright helped the Bulls to the 1997 and 1998 NBA World Championships. Cartwright took control of the big men on the Bulls roster, assisting in the development of the centers and power forwards on the Bulls roster. During his tenure, he helped Elton Brand achieve Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 as the young power forward averaged 20.1 ppg and 10.0 rpg in his first season. He continued those duties initially this season with rookies Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry and the Bulls saw rapid improvement by the teenage big men as both increased their scoring and rebounding throughout each month of the campaign.
As a 7-1, 245-pound center, Cartwright played 15 years in the NBA, including six with the Bulls. During his playing career, Cartwright was tutored by some of the game’s best coaches, including Red Holzman, Hubie Brown, Doug Collins, Phil Jackson and George Karl. A one-time NBA All-Star (1980), Cartwright finished with career averages of 13.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 1.4 apg shooting .525 from the floor and .771 from the free throw line. In 124 career playoff games, Cartwright averaged 8.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 1.3 apg, shooting .482 from the floor and .725 from the free throw line.
On June 27, 1988, the Bulls obtained Cartwright from the New York Knicks in exchange for Charles Oakley in a trade that propelled the Bulls to their first three NBA World Championships. Finally armed with an interior defensive presence to battle the centers of the NBA while providing a low-post scoring threat, Cartwright helped the Bulls to at least 55 victories in each of his final five seasons in Chicago, including the first back-to-back 60+ win seasons in Bulls history (1990-92). Cartwright appeared in 397 games with the Bulls, averaging 9.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg, shooting .475 from the floor and .735 from the free throw line.
Drafted by the Knicks in the first round (third overall) of the 1979 NBA Draft, Cartwright played his first eight seasons in New York, averaging 16.8 ppg and 7.1 rpg, shooting .552 from the floor. As a rookie, Cartwright averaged career-highs of 21.7 ppg and 8.9 rpg, shooting .547 from the floor. He earned NBA All-Rookie Team honors and was named to the 1980 NBA Eastern Conference All-Star team.
In four seasons at the University of San Francisco, Cartwright graduated as the Dons all-time leading scorer, averaging 19.1 ppg and 10.2 rpg, shooting .589 from the floor. A three-time All-American and three-time West Coast Conference Player of the Year, he was recently named one of the WCC’s 50 Greatest Student-Athletes of All-Time. In 1994, Cartwright earned his Master’s Degree in Organizational Development and Human Resources from San Francisco.
Cartwright, 44, was born on July 30, 1957 in Lodi, California. He currently resides in Lake Forest, Illinois with his wife Sheri and four children (Justin, Jason, James and Kristin).