Naturally, the Bulls fan base reacted strongly over the report late Saturday delivered by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that Jim Boylen had received a raise on his contract that was already going through the 2019-20 season. Never too far away from breaking news, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN confirmed that $1 million of Boylen’s $1.6 million salary for 2019-20 had been guaranteed.
Still operating under the deal he originally signed to serve as associate head coach, Boylen receiving a pay increase after being promoted is hardly earth-shattering news. The timing of this news leaking is what made little sense though, especially given the deal had been hashed out in advance, according to reports by Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Perhaps it was meant to be buried on a west-coast weekend back-to-back.
The Bulls were amid a six-game losing streak — which extended to seven only hours later — and their most recent performance was yet another historic face-plant against the Warriors where the coach and his team looked like they didn’t even belong in the same league.
Remember, after firing head coach Fred Holberg, vice president of basketball operations John Paxson conducted a series of interviews to outline why the franchise had made the decision to move on from Holberg and part of the rationale was the last time they were humiliated by the Warriors.
“It didn’t cement it. I was disappointed in our competitive spirit in a game like that,” Paxson said. “And I’m not going to ever apologise for being passionate about the game. It’s what’s kept me around it for a long time and I have a belief that if you don’t have a competitive heart, you don’t belong. I don’t want someone like that working with me, for me, anything like that. That game bothered me, but it wasn’t the one thing. There’s never, in my experience, there’s never one thing, a tipping point that you find. But that game was embarrassing.”
As is typically the case for the Bulls, the questionable timing and optics of their decision-making often hurts more than the decisions made.
The reception of such news would’ve differed greatly had these details been noted on the day he became coach, head coaches - even ones looking way over their head - deserve to be paid commensurate with the position. Though if terms weren’t agreed to at the time of the promotion, as Cowley suggests, it’s difficult to comprehend why the Bulls would only now give Boylen a bump in pay after remaining winless to start the new year.
This does further cement that management have afforded Boylen every opportunity to return as coach next season. Part of this is undoubtedly a strong belief in Boylen’s demeanour and defense-first approach, but as its always the case in Chicago the bottom line will play its part.
The Bulls will be on the hook for another $5 million in guaranteed money next season to Hoiberg should he remain without an NBA head-coaching job next season. Now with another $1 million guaranteed to Boylen — it’s hard to imagine a frugal franchise paying market rate for another coach.
Why that’s “hard to imagine” is another story. The Bulls are a cash-rich organisation operating in one of the largest markets in the country and coaching has no salary cap. Needless to say, they mustn’t allow these sunk costs of Hoiberg and Boylen to dictate their coaching choice beyond this season. More than ever, the coaching and player development part of this rebuild is of utmost importance. The Bulls should actually use their resources to find the right candidate. Because if results are anything to go by, this shouldn’t be Boylen’s job for much longer.