It’s no secret in the Bulls’ organization that Jim Boylen has higher aspirations than remaining an assistant coach.
Now he’ll have the chance to pursue that dream.
A source confirmed a report Thursday that the Bulls gave the Hornets permission to interview Boylen, 53, for their coaching vacancy after Steve Clifford’s firing last month.
It would be Boylen’s first NBA head-coaching position and his first top job at any level since he was at the University of Utah from 2007 to ’11.
Boylen was an assistant coach for the Rockets, Warriors, Bucks, Pacers and Spurs before joining the Bulls under coach Fred Hoiberg. He has been a part of three NBA champions.
It wouldn’t be a bad time for Boylen to leave if he lands the Hornets job, especially considering the Bulls’ defensive numbers this season.
Boylen initially was brought in to help Hoiberg with defense. Although the entire staff has input in the defense, Boylen was the key figure in controlling that part of the game plan.
The Bulls finished 27th in points allowed (110 per game) after finishing sixth last season (102.4).
Why is that significant? Because the 2016-17 roster included Tom Thibodeau holdovers Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson — at least until Gibson was traded at the deadline — and on many nights the team used Thibodeau’s defensive concepts.
According to several players, not only did Butler want to play Thibodeau’s defense, it obviously worked.
That never sat well with Boylen, and according to one former player, he was critical of Thibodeau’s defense and wanted to move away from it two seasons ago.
Boylen got his wish last summer, and it didn’t end well.
“Obviously, we’ll look at improvements across the board, and defensively is one area,’’ Hoiberg said recently when asked about a possible change of defensive philosophies this offseason. “That’s obviously something we’ll look at, as far as philosophy, what exactly we’re going to do.’’
A young roster, as well as one that changed lineups so frequently, didn’t help Boylen’s cause. Still, the Bulls want that side of the court tightened up — with or without Boylen moving forward.