The Bulls recently began interviews for their head coaching vacancy, and the franchise is rightfully casting a wide net. In addition to Kenny Atkinson, there are a bevy of up-and-coming assistant coaches on their list.
The 38-year-old Craig has been with the Heat since graduating college in 2003. He joined Miami as a video intern, effectively taking the Erik Spoelstra route by starting as a video guy before rising up the ranks to a position where he could become head coach. Craig has held numerous different positions with the franchise, including player development roles, and he also won D-League Coach of the Year in 2016 with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. The Skyforce won the D-League that year.
We’re seeing just how well-coached the Heat are during their current playoff run, including the fruits of their impressive player development system. In addition to having an alpha in Jimmy Butler (heh), Miami has already developed Bam Adebayo into an All-Star and Duncan Robinson into one of the best shooters in the NBA. Rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn have made contributions all season. This squad is what a #YoungerAndMoreAthletic Bulls team with Butler should have looked like, but of course it’s worth pointing out that the Heat have a much better infrastructure in place to make it all work.
Hiring somebody away from the Heat and bringing some of that famed Heat Culture to Chicago wouldn’t be a bad thing. While that doesn’t always guarantee future success as a head coach (David Fizdale has had some issues, Jim Boylen failed miserably from the Pop tree, etc.), it’s not a bad place to go looking.
However, hiring one of the numerous Black assistant coaches on their list would also be a good move in an offseason where Black head coaches are dwindling around the NBA despite a plethora of well-qualified candidates. The Bulls, who have had one Black head coach in franchise history, were criticized during the Arturas Karnisovas hiring process for a lack of diversity in their search. Marc Eversley was shortly after hired to be the first Black GM in team history, and following that up with a Black head coach would be a positive to bring more diversity to the organization, and could make them better positioned to build those player relationships.
One of the supposed frontrunners for the job in that group is Ime Udoka. The Sixers assistant is a candidate for that job as well, but signs are pointing to Philly going with Tyronn Lue. A deal might not be done yet, but Lue makes sense for a team trying to win now with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Another coaching job was actually filled on Thursday, and it was a legit shocker: the Nets announced the hiring of hall-of-fame former player Steve Nash. The move caused some uproar given Nash’s lack of coaching experience and the fact that he’s leapfrogging interim coach Jacque Vaughn (who is staying on as an assistant), but Nash’s prior history with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and GM Sean Marks apparently sealed the deal there.
With Nash in Brooklyn and Lue possibly going to Philly, that would leave the Bulls, Pacers, Pelicans as the remaining openings for now.