That’s right, 20 months after the Bulls suffered their worst loss in franchise history, the architect responsible for the debacle has finally been canned.
Jim Boylen was fired Friday morning “for basketball reasons,” per Vice-President of Basketball Operations, Arturas Karnisovas, a deft euphemism for “incompetence.” His two seasons as head coach of the Chicago Bulls were highlighted by awful losses, stagnating player development, rigid strategy, and bizarre quotes.
The worst incident on Boylen’s spotty record happened December 8th, 2018 in a game against the Boston Celtics. It was less than a week after Boylen had taken over for former Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg, and in an effort to show his team he was the boss, Boylen mass substituted the starters out of the ball game, twice. He did it in the first half to show his disgust with their effort, and he did it again early in the second half, forcing his young players to watch the rest of the game as Boston’s lead ballooned ever larger, until it reached historic heights; Boston 133 – Chicago 77, a 56 point deficit and the worst loss in franchise history. The mass benching was embarrassing. It was petty. It alienated Boylen from his players just days after taking on the job, and it was made worse by what happened after the game.
When Boylen was asked by the media why he mass substituted out the starters and didn’t allow them back into the game, he had this to say, “I play them more, we lose tonight and can’t practice tomorrow, we double-lose.” Boylen then went on to call his players embarrassing, suggesting that subbing them out was actually saving them from themselves. And then he called for a full practice the next morning, fully aware that the team had just come off of a back-to-back set of games. The players, fed up with being called embarrassments (even though the weren’t allowed to play in the game) and galvanized by the call for a practice after a back-to-back, mutinied, threatening to walk out of Boylen’s precious practice.
Whether you thought Boylen was the right man for the job, or that he didn’t know his own arse from a backboard, it was pretty obvious that by the time this season was paused due to Covid, most of his players were over him. Core players like Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr, and Lauri Markkanen have been struggling to say positive things about Boylen’s coaching for well over a year. Newer additions to the Bulls, like Tomas Satoransky and Daniel Gafford, have also had a rough time diplomatically answering questions about Boylen and his coaching style.
If you’re a coach and you lose the team, it’s time to move on.
On Friday morning, Arturas and his Round Table officially did just that. They moved on from a coach that no longer (if ever) had the trust and respect of his team. Now the focus shifts to an actual, bona fide coaching search. Something that hasn’t happened for the Bulls in about a decade (maybe longer).
5 candidates have already been identified by NBC Sports Chicago as being on the Round Table’s list to consider:
1) Kenny Atkinson – Former head coach of the surging Brooklyn Nets.
2) Wes Unseld Jr – An assistant coach with the young and dominant Denver Nuggets.
3) Darvin Ham – Lead assistant of the Milwaukee Bucks and a long time disciple of Coach Budenholzer.
4) Stephen Silas – Assistant with the Dallas Mavericks under Rick Carlisle.
5) Ime Udoka – Current assistant with the Philadelphia ‘76ers, and former assistant to Coach Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.
All great candidates, who I’m sure would be an upgrade over the last two schmucks to hold the position.
This being my blog, now’s the time I get to play GM and give you my prefered short list of candidates to be interviewed:
1) Becky Hammon – Assistant coach and player development guru for the San Antonio Spurs. Hammon has been coaching under Popovich for a long time now, and seems to have earned a lot of respect from her players. She could be just the person this Bulls roster needs to actualize there latent potential.
2) James Wade – Head coach of the Chicago Sky. Coach Wade has taken a mishmash roster of diversified talents and created a cohesive, dynamic, competitive and entertaining team. The Sky are fluid on offense, everyone shares the ball, everyone gets touches and a chance to score, and that chemistry and trust that Wade has fostered in his players is adding up to victories for Chicago’s “other” basketball team.
3) Jay Wright – Head coach of the Men’s basketball team for the University of Villanova. Wright has won two national titles in the past 5 seasons, and has created a perennial tournament contender in ‘Nova. His teams compete hard, play defense, and win. If he ever wants to take a pay cut and go pro, the young Bulls might be a good team to start with.
With Jim Boylen gone and a new front office in place, we all get to speculate wildly about the future of the Bulls. The one thing I am looking forward to is an actual coaching search taking place. There is no heir apparent. No one is waiting in the wings. Arturas and the Round Table will be able to take their time and find the right person for this team. Let’s just hope they do!
Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!