The Chicago Bulls now have the two most important members of their new front office in place in Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley. The next big decision will be what to do with head coach Jim Boylen. Based on what Karnisovas and Eversley said last Friday during the new GM’s introductory conference call, it looks like it’s going to be a while before a final decision is made.
Firing Boylen should be a no-brainer, as has been written many times on this site and outlined by Stephen Noh Monday on his new Patreon site (support Stephen!). But this new front office is being respectful about the process in these unique times, with both Karnisovas and Eversley expressing a desire to be able to meet with the coaching staff face-to-face before deciding what to do.
“My initial impression of Jim is he cares a great deal about this team and he’s as anxious as everyone else to get back in the gym,” Karnisovas said. “My first priority was to hire Marc [and other department heads] J.J. Polk and Pat Connelly in order to implement my vision, our vision, to create sustainable program that can be good for a very long time.
“Going back to coaching, we’ve had a chance to meet a couple times over Zoom. . . . I’m going to do my comprehensive evaluation of every department and ensure I give the process the time it deserves. We are limited right now with what we can do. Instead of being in the practice facility and being in Chicago, we’re at home doing video and audio calls like this one. It makes it difficult. So until we get to some level of normalcy — and I don’t know what that looks like — we will not be able to fully assess the current situation.”
Karnisovas has spoken with Bulls players, and Boylen has been a topic.
“Again, I think we owe it to everybody on staff to get to Chicago and meet them face-to-face,” Eversley said. “I think we owe to our players to hopefully get to evaluate them in practice settings, in playing settings. And we owe it to our staff to see them in those types of settings as well. I just think it’s far too early to make those types of decisions with respect to anybody on the staff until we get to Chicago.”
While many of us would gladly just be rid of Jimbo ASAP, this outlook is at least somewhat understandable. They want to be fair to this coaching staff and give them a chance to make their case, especially with the conclusion of the 2019-20 season still up in the air.
Of course, the general consensus here is that this new regime will want to bring in their own guy. Reports about how Boylen is confident he’ll stay and how ownership likes him and wants him to stick around should obviously be taken with a major grain of salt. Boylen’s track record (a disappointing 39-84 record plus poor in-game coaching and endless embarrassment with his goofy antics) speaks for itself, even if there have been some minor improvements and he knows the game.
Joe Cowley, who has consistently been reporting Boylen’s own confidence in keeping the job, has even said he thinks there will be a new coach. The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry thinks Boylen is 100% a goner, and he also reported that executives around the NBA believe there will ultimately be a coaching change.
There’s simply little reason to think this brand-new front office will want to keep around a failure at head coach instead of starting fresh with their own guy. This is especially true when Eversley made it a point to talk about making the Bulls “cool again,” which doesn’t exactly scream Jim Boylen’s name.
If the Bulls do indeed move on from Boylen, Mayberry noted Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin and 76ers assistant Ime Udoka as potential candidates. Griffin played for the Bulls and was an assistant under Tom Thibodeau, plus he played with Karnisovas at Seton Hall. Eversley is also close with important people with the Raptors thanks to his own experience in Toronto, so there’s plenty of smoke for this possibility.
Udoka is one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in the NBA and just worked with Eversley, so there’s a clear tie there. Udoka also has experience under Gregg Popovich as a player and assistant. The fact that Udoka and Griffin are former players who aren’t that far removed from their playing days is viewed as a positive given their ability to relate to current players.
There will surely be other candidates. Kenny Atkinson is out there after his surprising departure from the Nets, and the Bulls already have one of his old assistants (Chris Fleming) on staff. Wes Unseld Jr. is an assistant on the rise in Denver, so Karnisovas and Pat Connelly are familiar with him. Maybe they get bold and go after Becky Hammon. Thibs is available! (jk)
Either way, I still fully expect a coaching change. Right now, though, it’s unclear on just when that will be.