I’m not going to rehash all the goofiness that has happened since Coachy McCoacherson took over for Fred Hoiberg last week, because there’s just way too much of it. You can go here for my thoughts on all of it.
Instead, let’s focus on what some people around the country have been writing about this mess of a Bulls situation. Hint: It ain’t pretty!
Yahoo’s tag-team effort by former Bulls beat writer Vincent Goodwill and Chris Haynes delivered plenty of the juicy details on the near mutiny and built on the initial reporting done by the local guys, painting the picture of a “dangerous” situation with “no easy solution.”
The New York Times’ Marc Stein weighed in, saying that Jim Boylen won’t last the rest of the season “if he persists with a non-stop taskmaster approach.” Of course, that’s an approach that has been rubber-stamped by a front office seemingly feeling no heat, so maybe they really just try to hammer this home in the attempts to build a “culture” until it becomes so untenable something different has to be done. We may be close to that point already.
Stein also addressed the link to Gregg Popovich, a mentor Boylen loves to bring up ... over and over and over again. Pop may be an old-school guy at heart, but he also was infamous for building relationship and knowing when to pull back. Of course, he also is one of the most successful coaches in league history, and this is Boylen’s first head coaching job:
Part of what has made Popovich so successful over the years is his ability to weave great interpersonal skills and copious amounts of empathy into his dogged strictness. He is also said to have consciously mellowed since the 2016 retirement of Tim Duncan — as well as in the wake of last season’s disconnect with Kawhi Leonard that led to Leonard being traded to Toronto in July.
Ultimately, though, it’s Pop’s fistful of titles that furnish him with unimpeachable credibility. As many have noted over the past 48 hours, Boylen is a Spurs alumnus — but that’s all he credibly shares in common with his former boss.
How Boylen and the Bulls rebound from this crisis will be watched keenly by his peers leaguewide, as coaching norms continue to shift. Yet I can confidently forecast, without delay, that he and his current bosses will have to do most of the adapting here.
The Second Arrangement’s Kelly Dwyer had an even better way of describing the Pop nonsense in his tour de force column:
Jim Boylen is one of only a few NBA coaches with major NCAA head coaching experience, depending on how you view former Division III head coach Gregg Popovich, a name Boylen wasted absolutely no time in spitting out with other flecks of excuse on Saturday night.
Boylen was a respected assistant under Popovich with the Spurs in 2013-14 and 2014-15, an employment reference he’s unloaded multiple times in his one week as head coach, dulling ears and rolling eyes and deadening credibility with each Pop-o-kvetch.
That the new head coach would credit Pop — an outwardly adaptive coach known for bending every bit of what Popovich used to assume was his best sense — in Boylen’s defense of haughty lesson’ry is hilarious.
Sad, hilarious. The Bulls are a John Prine song.
Sad and hilarious is a good way to put it.
Dwyer has always been excellent at writing about the Bulls and their troubles, and he used this latest drama to look at the bigger picture of a franchise with ownership that doesn’t really care and a front-office duo that has admittedly made its share of good moves while also creating a “miserable atmosphere” at the United Center and its accompanying practice facility.
Perhaps the perfect summation of the Bulls lies toward the beginning of his column:
The Chicago Bulls are the NBA’s most inessential team, this will remain the case until the lid is removed. Images of those six championship trophies have been stamped so many times for commercial use that by now that familiar bit of golden gleam has worn to reveal the fluke on some of them, the inevitable ticker consequence of the greatest psychopath in basketball’s history’s insistence on making this work.
Speaking of ownership that doesn’t care, Andrew Sharp over at Sports Illustrated’s The Crossover highlighted how the dichotomy of the ownership situations in Chicago and Phoenix have both led to similar disastrous results. While the Suns’ Robert Sarver is an infamous meddler, the Reinsdorfs just don’t care enough. Jerry Reinsdorf’s quote about trading in all six NBA rings for one White Sox ring is naturally referenced, in addition to other recent cost-saving measures.
Sharp sums it all up like so:
The symmetry of the Suns and Bulls incompetence is pretty wonderful, and it speaks to the various ways a bad owner can poison everything. In Phoenix, Sarver is too hands-on and the plan changes every other month. In Chicago, the Reinsdorfs don’t appear to care that there hasn’t been a coherent plan in almost a decade. Neither team is in any hurry to spend money solidifying the infrastructure of the organization, and both will reap the benefits of NBA revenue sharing at the end of the year. In June, they will probably find themselves in the top five of the draft all over again, with fans hoping that a 19-year old can somehow change all of this.
Both the Suns and Bulls should be so much better than what they have become. Chicago is the third-biggest market in America and the Bulls have one of the best fanbases in all of sports. Building a sustainable winner really shouldn’t be that complicated. Until the past decade, Phoenix has been one of the most successful small market teams in NBA history. From 1975 to 2010, the Suns made the playoffs in all but six seasons, and many of those teams were adored by fans all over the league. Alas, Steve Nash is gone, and so is Michael Jordan.
Instead of Hall of Famers, there are only the Reinsdorfs and Sarver. They are currently the NBA’s two best reminders that sometimes focusing on players and front offices can only take us so far. When it’s time to explain a 50-point loss or a locker room mutiny or a team that’s been in the lottery for a decade, the answer always starts at the top.
The Bulls have a few nice young pieces in place and appear poised to add another in the draft. But given the leadership in place at basically all levels of the organization, it’s easy to be skeptical about the state of this rebuild. And as it currently stands, the outside perception of the Bulls isn’t good. Even Kings players were clowning the Bulls after a clowning on the floor.
The Bulls have to hope they don’t become the new Kings.