I started blogging the Bulls in July 2003, mere months after John Paxson took over from Jerry Krause to lead basketball operations.
It’s been a long...really long...time with both of us still at it. So long that this is indeed huge news that the Bulls have reportedly hired a new leader in Arturas Karnisovas. It’ll just be the third person in this position in the nearly 40 years of Reinsdorf ownership. But more importantly is that it’s the first one that isn’t an internal hire from the Bulls ‘family’.
And for that reason alone I’d say the Bulls did pretty well here.
(will include caveat that there is still an outside chance for something Bullsy to screw all this up, like the 2008 coaching search)
Karnisovas looks to be a good choice. He has the “well respected around the league” tag and appears to have a breadth of experience. As the interview process played out over the past couple days, it looked at first that he was getting the job by default and then they almost looked to be floating out names so terrible they had to have known just to make fans happier that they circled back to Karnisovas.
And that worked! I definitely am relieved that it’s Karnisovas and not Bryan Colangelo. But I wouldn’t qualify this as a home-run hire because Karnisovas is still a likely-affordable first-timer. And goddamned John Paxson plus (to a lesser extent) Gar Forman have not been fired.
We’ll see in the coming days and weeks how much “full authority” this job really has. But the fact that Karnisovas is taking the job is encouraging to that factor. Karnisovas reportedly turned down the Sixers in 2018 partially because they were looking for a collaborator more than a single decision-maker.
So while it indeed sucks that this wasn’t a full house-cleaning before Karnisovas was hired, let’s wait and see how he fills out his staff and does some house-cleaning himself.
If we are to believe that Karnisovas is truly running the basketball team, his first order of business should be to fire Paxson, Forman, and their acolytes strewn throughout the organization.
A lack of doing so (again, this is choosing to believe reports Karnisovas has this power) would be a quickly found evidence of lacking in judgement.
Here was KC Johnson when Karnisovas had yet to be interviewed, and later reported that Karnisovas viewed Paxson “as a resource, not a roadblock”:
Paxson knows the organizational history. He knows the city. He knows how to communicate with the Reinsdorfs.
Nope! The new guy doesn’t need this resource!
“Bulls across the chest” mindset should be over as an admitted failure. This is someone from the outside with fresh eyes, don’t take away that objectively good news with ties to the ‘history’. The ‘history’ sucks, that’s what this hire is supposed to be erasing.
Karnisovas has a lot of work ahead of him, if it’s indeed true that he has the autonomy to run basketball operations. The Bulls have one of the smallest operations in the league, but that shouldn’t mean everyone is safe and there is a need to build depth. I see it as a bad result if Karnisovas hires a bunch of people yet there’s a similarly sized shadow organization left over from GarPax.
Just as important as the future hires are the fates of John Paxson and Gar Forman. And then moving on to other cronies like Doug Collins, Jim Paxson, Brian Hagen, and then moving on to the hires who maybe weren’t cronies at the start but have been in the organization for 20 years. Not everyone has to go to satisfy my bloodlust, but they should all be independently evaluated.
Karnisovas is a chance to actually rebuild the franchise. It’s a good start. But I will hold off proclaiming this as a truly brand new era until there’s follow through and more people who don’t care one bit about the organizational history are brought in, and the entrenched where “knowing the Reinsdorfs” is a positive are let go.