If there was any lingering skepticism about Jim Boylen’s staying power as Bulls coach, he might have squelched it Friday night.
During the Bulls’ 128-121 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles, Boylen was more than unhappy with what he felt was a second unnecessary hard screen, and he made those feelings known not only to the officials and Clipper players, but to future Hall of Fame coach Doc Rivers.
Both coaches were quickly ejected. It might have been the best ejection Boylen could have asked for.
“What Jim did, I personally respect that a lot,’’ Bulls guard Zach LaVine told reporters afterward. “He really cares about us, and he’s going to fight for us. That shows his true character, the way he feels about us.’’
Those are huge words from LaVine, who finally sounds like he’s all in on Boylen.
In fact, ESPN reported that LaVine contacted the front office and offered to pay Boylen’s $7,000 fine ($5,000 for the technicals, $2,000 for the ejection). The Bulls said he could.
The evolution didn’t happen overnight.
Boylen took over after Fred Hoiberg was fired Dec. 3, and it wasn’t the smoothest of transitions. At least not for LaVine.
Though LaVine hasn’t admitted it publicly, sources told the Sun-Times that he was the face of the small mutiny that was attempted in the first week under Boylen.
Cooler heads quickly put it to rest, but it took on a life of its own with the national media.
LaVine remained the most resistant to Boylen’s style of coaching into January, clearly frustrated with the direction of the offense at the time.
But LaVine slowly began to buy in, and once the Bulls traded Jabari Parker — who many in the front office thought was poisoning the water — LaVine continued to invest in his new coach.
“He’s the coach, and he’s going to do what he thinks is best,” LaVine said of the transition. “I think we’re the players, and we’ve got to adjust to it. I don’t think it was something to where we were like, ‘I wish it was different.’ It was just we had to deal with it. I think we did that, and we’re in a better spot now.”
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So is Boylen.
His contract always has run through next season, but he was given a salary bump from assistant to head coach.
That means Boylen still has to prove himself to the Bulls’ front office.
The fact that the locker room is now fully vested is huge, but now comes the part where the core has to continue developing while playing within the culture Boylen has been trying to institute.
If that’s demonstrated in the first half of next season, the Bulls and Boylen likely would discuss a contract extension.
Since taking over, Boylen has received endorsements from around the league. Sixers coach Brett Brown was the latest.
“He’s been around forever,’’ Brown said last week. “He’s seen winning basketball.
“I think you go back to his Rudy [Tomjanovich] days or you go back to him being head coach [at the University of Utah] or him spending that time with Pop [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich], that history cannot be dismissed, and I think you put that under the environment of how competitive he is and there’s a good demanding side of him. Young programs need that.”