The Jim Boylen era is mercifully over in Chicago, and now we’re starting to see some of that dirt.
Officially it’s been all amicable: after Arturas Karnisovas took the high road when talking about Boylen’s terrible tenure and the decision to fire him, Jimbo himself spoke and tried to be gracious on the way out (keep in mind, he is being paid the remainder of his contract) in an interview with K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago that dropped on Monday morning.
Boylen said he “loved every minute of working for the Bulls” and appreciated the opportunity. He thanked ownership, John Paxson, Gar Forman, Fred Hoiberg and the players.
Of course, Boylen also continues to have no regrets, saying he did exactly what was asked of him:
“My marching orders were for us to practice harder, play harder and defend better...Our shared goal was to establish a style of play and system at both ends. I feel we were moving forward. We were improving.”
“I don’t worry about people who haven’t coached critiquing me,” he said. “I don’t try to be a doctor.”
We also got anecdotes about Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen reaching out to Boylen, plus Jimbo spending Friday calling people around the organization.
If one were to read this interview with just cursory knowledge of the situation, one would think Boylen’s tenure was mostly normal but just a bit unlucky, and his firing was just the nature of the business with a new lead executive coming in.
The actual truth came from The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry, who couldn’t have painted more different picture of Boylen’s time in Chicago.
Mayberry pulled no punches from the start, saying Boylen should have been fired on Super Bowl Sunday after a debacle against the Raptors including one of his famous pointlessly-late timeouts.
Mayberry then relayed scathing descriptions of the Boylen era from multiple people in the organization, including “toxic,” “a nightmare” and “a circus.”
Perhaps the most savage bit was this:
Boylen had contentious relationships with multiple players, unusual run-ins with opposing coaches and tactics that agitated fans and broadcasters alike. His personality was tough to absorb, abrasive and for some, hard to believe.
In a statement announcing his decision to fire Boylen after a “comprehensive evaluation,” new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas called him “a great human being.”
Others say they saw Boylen for who he is, a bullshitter, a bully, a sycophant. His greatest success as Bulls coach was simply getting the job.
Mayberry then gave a play-by-play of the Bulls’ dysfunction under Boylen, starting with the “shock and awe” of a near-player mutiny and going from there until last week’s firing. Throughout this piece, we get nuggets such as these:
- Boylen blocking the TV crew’s view during games.
- In addition to the punch clock and championship belt, T-shirts with “cheesy motivational sayings.”
- “Minor concern” that Boylen and LaVine would get into a physical altercation after the infamous Heat benching.
- LaVine was upset about Boylen leaking news of the infamous fine payment to the media.
- Markkanen mocking Boylen’s timeout usage around reporters.
Even the praise of Boylen regarding the development of guys like Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaquille Harrison is couched with this burn:
But head coaches are supposed to win games. Low-ranking assistants are paid to develop the back end of the roster.
It’s truly a devastating account of the Boylen disaster, and far more than the nuggets from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times about “conduct detrimental to the organization,” including a years-ago run-in with a team chef that required a lawyer to get involved.
It was painfully obvious, basically from the beginning, that Boylen wasn’t cut out for the head job. He was overmatched during games and with the media. There will surely be more dirt that comes out.
It’s still amazing that Boylen got as much as rope as he did, but Mayberry’s piece and Boylen’s quotes to K.C. actually do kind of hint at why: He effectively conned management with his try-hard approach and sycophancy.
Karnisovas made an obvious call here, finally ending a bad and truly weird era of Chicago Bulls Basketball.