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The Bulls front office search has hit some early bumps

the list is not limited!

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Chicago Bulls v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s good news that the Bulls are starting a search for new member of the front office, and better yet aren’t waiting for the season to resume (or not) to do so.

We have interviews going on already. Utah Jazz GM Justin Zanik - he of myriad Bulls-y connections - interviewed remotely on Monday. Arturas Karnisovas of the Nuggets will follow.

But it’s been an immediately rocky start. We have been conditioned to not expect too much because this is a Bulls operation:

  1. most everyone still around will stick around
  2. there’s a lot of ambiguity in the power structure
  3. they’re not going after a big-money hire

(maybe this is why they don’t do coaching searches!)

So despite national media puffery on how ‘attractive’ this job is, we’ve already seen reports of the initial names floated dropping out. Here’s the Chicago Tribune with a roundup that I don’t need to re-do:

A few of their top targets are already off the board, however, including Heat assistant general manager Adam Simon, who withdrew his name from the search Monday, when a team spokesperson told reporters Simon would remain in his current role in Miami.

He became the second of the Bulls’ initial targets to remove his name from consideration, joining Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan, who had been rumored as a top target since at least the All-Star break. Buchanan declined an opportunity to interview with the Bulls, The Athletic reported over the weekend.

And the Raptors are almost certain to deny the Bulls permission to speak with general manager Bobby Webster, who is under contract through the 2020-21 season, according to SportsNet.

This is interesting to consider what exactly is the reason for candidates preemptively saying no to the Bulls. For one thing it indicates that the stature of the franchise, even considering historical significance and market size, is diminished.

But it also potentially informs as to what exactly is the job, here: how much ‘full authority’ do you really have, who do you still answer to, and how much money will they be paid?

Because as that SportsNet report by Michael Grange regarding Webster describes, there’s a best practice around the league when considering ‘allowing’ staff under contract to interview elsewhere:

It’s customary that teams don’t stand in the way of their people being recruited for promotions in the NBA. Bumping up Webster meant that only teams looking for a president or director of basketball operations role could realistically come looking.

But Grange follows by saying that the Bulls are looking for that kind of role. In a tweet (not in an article yet I don’t think, which is curious) Woj names the role “Executive VP of Basketball Operations”.

That’s currently John Paxson’s title.

And while there are varying reports on incumbent GM Gar Forman’s future, it’s been universally established that Paxson isn’t going anywhere. In fact, Paxson has been called “the driving force” behind these additions in the first place by KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Johnson has been reporting (to a near water-carrying level, “the list is not limited!”), and further insisting this report: Paxson - though ‘around’ and with a voice to ownership - will have a scope defined by the new hire. Joe Cowley of the Sun-Times reported that Paxson wasn’t a participant in the interview with Zanik, which is good if true (Cowley’s a poor reporter that requires outside confirmation).

It’d be personal preference that Paxson was escorted from “our building” by armed security, but any rumor of less involvement is good. Maybe he is truly content in a do-nothing emeritus job.

But seeing candidates turn down of consideration implies that the job is not as much of a promotion as the Bulls want it to seem.

Maybe because other executives simply don’t believe Paxson can butt out, and this is all not for him to not be replaced, but instead have more help with grunt work to do what he already does. Doug Collins is a mere advisor currently, and he supposedly was a ‘driving’ force to undermine Gar while pushing for a new coach (and what great advising!).

And exactly how much budget and power will there be to hire a staff when you are potentially forced to keep around Paxson, Collins, Forman...hell, assistant GM Steve Weinman is safe? Jim Boylen needs to be ‘considered’ for retention? Why is anybody currently employed being evaluated internally before the guy who they’re hired as an outside evaluator can do it?

These candidates and rival executives likely realize it’s not truly ‘full authority’ with these constraints. The Bulls owner’s son may be pledging that power description, but he himself doesn’t even have ‘full authority’ to fire John Paxson.

A good hire can still be made. Even the Bullsian self-constraints of hiring affordable first-timers can work out like it did with Tom Thibodeau. The two mentioned interviewees seem fine. Apparently it’s a long list.

But it’s being led by someone who’s outed himself as easily-impressionable and never made this important of a hire in his professional life, with the final decision going to his dad, and advice coming from the failed predecessors who have for years made increasingly poor decisions. It’s tough to hypothesize what Bulls ownership could employ to help them make this hire, but that’s reason why the lead candidate should be a substantial name with experience. Not someone who merely will get the “well respected” tag by every reporter on Twitter, but an actually-known commodity.

But it appears the Bulls aren’t looking for that, and now even the potential hires looking at the first time at ‘the big chair’ don’t think the position truly all it’s made out to be.