You may think that under Jim Boylen’s watch, the Bulls have been terrible to the point of nobody caring much anymore over their performance. I’d say I’m speaking as a ‘casual observer’, but I don’t think anybody follows this team more than casually at the moment.
But Boylen himself is deep in the weeds in this. And he will tell you what he thinks (nay, knows) how he’s doing and how his team is doing. And it turns out it’s actually all good!
Recall before the season when Boylen actually built up some goodwill by having a measurable goal?
“Our goals for the season are to make the playoffs...There’s no way that we were going to stand up here and say, ‘Hey, I hope we can win 10 more games or we hope we can be better.’ We want to get to the mountaintop.’’
This week after the playoff push has all but absolutely been crushed, Boylen set his sights even lower than what he said he wouldn’t do:
“It is a win-loss league, but that’s not the only thing that gets evaluated. Are we establishing a style of play? I think we have. Have we cleaned up our defense that needed to be cleaned up? I think we have. Have we established a shot profile that’s top five in the league? I think we’re three right now in the shots we get compared to other teams. So those are all positive things.
You can look at the what-ifs, which I don’t do very often. With our shot profile, what would Otto Porter do in that shot profile? He’d be pretty successful. And Lauri Markkanen and right on down the line. I’m not worried about my personal record or my win-loss record. I’ve been asked to establish a style of play, to have a disciplined approach and develop a young group of guys. And in my opinion, we are doing that. Case in point – Coby White’s improvement, Daniel Gafford’s improvement. Cris Felicio, I think, is doing a heckuva job for us. So play the guys you have and hopefully make them better.”
Nobody in this organization said to me, ‘You got to win this many games.’ Nobody said to me, ‘Hey, we’re going to talk about wins and losses all year.’ Not one time have they said that to me. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to win. It doesn’t mean we aren’t trying to win, but nobody said that to me. I have to honor the organization with trying to do this thing the right way. If we do that and if we can get healthy, I feel good about it.”
There sure is a lot of bullshit there, to a level so obvious there’s no need to go point-by-point to detail how he’s wrong and stupid. But, in a way, Boylen’s excuse-making and outright lying is truly ‘honoring the organization’.
Boylen has been at this gambit with more intensity lately. The team’s partly-owned broadcast partner has interestingly stopped publishing video of Boylen’s regular post-game ‘we battled’ embarrassment (cowards!), but thankfully people are still around to write down the stuff he says.
Like when Boylen was approached as part of this feature at The Ringer on the Bulls overall faceplant of an All-Star weekend hosting franchise:
“I feel good about it,” Boylen said. He narrowed his eyes and scrunched his forehead, as if squeezing the press-conference platitudes from his brain. “We play hard. But we gotta get some bodies back. … And then we lost Markkanen and Dunn within a few days of each other. When those two guys go down, it’s tough. We were third in defense until Carter got hurt. We’re tanked right now. We just gotta get guys back.”
“What I try to do is look at some of the facts. I want to look at what progress we have made. We have definitely made progress defensively with our system and in what we do this season. That has been hijacked a little bit by injuries, but we’re still a good, hard-playing defensive team. We’ve improved our running game. I think in the month of February so far, we’re first in fast-break points. Even though we’re on a losing streak, we’re still playing hard, aggressive basketball.”
“I think we’re sixth in February in points in the paint. So I try to look at the facts of things we are doing. After the 50-game mark, we were plus-seven wins from last year at the 50-game mark. Then we had some guys start to go down. We were on our way to being plus whatever it would be from that point on. So I’m not going to let the injury bug or the negativity stop understanding what we’re building and who we are and how we’re playing. There’s a lot of positive things that we’ve done.”
Again, it’d take too long to go through this in detail, but:
- Boylen pledges ‘facts’ but offers more subjective opinions
- One fact is an arbitrary win improvement, the very thing he said before the season he wasn’t going to do
- Other facts were outright incorrect, as pointed out by KC Johnson: “The Bulls actually are fifth in points in the paint and 13th in fast-break points this month. The losses of Carter and Kris Dunn have facilitated their defense dropping out of the top-10 to a tie for 12th.”
Boylen isn’t being honest to the media, the fans, or his players. But that’s his goal. What is necessary for him is to reach an audience of only a few people, those that picked him for the job.
Like Boylen himself, they also happen to also be under-performing morons whose only ambitions are to stay employed. One of those is John Paxson, who openly said these games are meaningless and it is not the time yet for evaluation, yet he has evaluated enough to praise Boylen and say “One thing I do admire is [Boylen] doesn’t quit on these guys.”
For one thing, that is not admirable. Boylen should have the pride to quit on these guys and acknowledge he was always in over his head. But he shares in the peter principle with Paxson, who himself should’ve quit 11 years ago when he wanted to, and definitely 5 years ago when the rest of us wanted him to as well.
But not only will Boylen not quit, he is attempting to pull the same con that he did late last season, parroting what his dinosaur benefactors say to get them to keep him around.
That is also Boylen’s motivation for his timeout shenanigans, well-researched by Darnell Mayberry at The Athletic. Boylen doing this nonsense to the mockery of the league is not strategy, nor is it to the benefit of his team. It’s a sham of a performance, to the ownership suite for the benefit of Jim Boylen: Look at me, I’m still coaching! Look at how hard I’m coaching! Admire that I’ve not given up on these guys!
Boylen is no evil genius, he just knows his marks: Paxson has bought it before, as has the feckless steward of ownership. And that’s why he’s trying to pull it again, and with a similar circumstance of general apathy surrounding the team he may actually get away with it.
But perhaps not if the Bulls make a front-office change. It’s not looking like nearly enough change, and truly bizarre to think that the people that (!) hired and extended Jim Boylen as head coach (!) will be the guides of such change, but perhaps a bone to throw to a new GM is that while everyone in the Bulls patronage party has to stick around, the new hire can at least replace Boylen.
But even such a light at the end of the tunnel is dim (and, again, operated by the same dummies who brought the team to the darkness...), and man oh man is it going to take a long time to get there. Because, along the way, Jim Boylen is going to keep striving for his goal this season: to tell everyone that Jim Boylen is good and none of this is his fault.