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Bulls hire Chris Fleming to lead Boylen’s assistant coaching staff

NOT a crony, nor a big name

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Well I guess we all look dumb, huh. Nobody guessed this name, as the Bulls appear to be going outside of their own building with their latest assistant coaching hire.

First reported by Woj and confirmed by KC Johnson, Boylen’s lead assistant is Chris Fleming, who was on the Brooklyn Nets staff this past season.

Fleming is relatively inexperienced at the NBA level, previously doing the bulk of his coaching in Germany. He has been with the Nets for 3 seasons and also spent 1 season in Denver.

There is this minor connection to Boylen: Fleming was on the 2014 Spurs Summer league staff with Boylen. Current Nets GM Sean Marks was also with the Spurs at that time, and he apparently liked what he saw in Fleming to bring him to Brooklyn. I have to wonder if Fleming will also say he coached with Gregg Popovich?

Fleming may be good, who the hell knows (he didn’t get the usual perfunctory ‘well respected’ label by reporters, kinda damning!), but he definitely isn’t as credentialed as what we were led to believe the Bulls were looking for. It was suggested Bulls needed to secure Boylen’s future as to get the best assistants, and that Boylen being a novice head coach meant that they’d potentially look for someone with prior big chair experience. But it was a balancing act between that and somebody who would not have more sway with players than the nominal head coach himself.

It looks like they’re going with a clear subordinate, though good on them for not making it an obvious ‘connections’ hire at least.

Encouragingly, ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz listed Fleming in his profile of up-and-coming coaches 2 years ago:

Fleming spent 15 years coaching in Germany, where he racked up a ton of league and cup championships and still presides as the national team coach. After a single season under Michael Malone in Denver, he joined Richmond Spiders teammate Kenny Atkinson in Brooklyn last summer.

Three smart front-office folks who keep stock of the NBA’s coaching ranks named Fleming one of their favorite below-the-radar prospects. They see a guy who carved out a unique path overseas. They see a grinder in a cutthroat job that requires superb communications skills and an appreciation for players of vastly different backgrounds, ages and pedigrees. Fleming is regarded as terrific with people, but he’s no softie, either -- his personality profile is similar to that of his boss in Brooklyn.

Creativity reigns supreme in Europe, and Fleming brought that sensibility to the U.S. And like Atkinson, he has a versatile skill set as an X’s and O’s maven who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty on the court developing talent -- especially important in Brooklyn, where the Nets will need to coach up their ragtag group of journeymen and kids. Fleming is still a relative unknown to many in the NBA, but look for that to change as the league continues to dig for interesting people who have the blend of experience to succeed in the top job.