PHILADELPHIA — Like it or not, that’s the perception. Bulls coach Jim Boylen can try to change it, try to do damage control, but why start now?
“I don’t know if I can worry about that,’’ Boylen said Wednesday. “I’ve never really worried about that stuff since I took over the job.’’
Maybe that’s why he barely flinched when asked about a recent NBA player poll in which he finished second in the category: “Which coach — aside from your own — would you not want to play for?’’
Boylen grabbed 21.1 percent of the vote; former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau finished first (34.6 percent).
Did Boylen help his image during his first week on the job? Apparently not, if you ask around the league.
In that first week, Boylen weathered a franchise-record 56-point loss to the Celtics, an attempted two-player coup to boycott a practice, a change in the assistant-coaching staff and the forming of a leadership committee. All the while, Boylen held some grueling practices and did not back down from the idea that the Bulls had to toughen up.
It took some time and there were a few rough moments, but for the most part, his players have bought in.
That perception around the league, however, is still an uphill battle, but it’s not a high priority for Boylen.
“My focus is trying to do what’s right for the guys we have, try to be direct and honest,’’ Boylen said. “We obviously have guys around here that want to be coached, honor ‘Bulls’ across their chest. That might not be for everybody. It might not be. But I know what winning looks like. I’ve been a part of it, and we’re going to try to build this culture to be a winning culture.’’
And when it comes time for the Bulls to open up their wallets and go after a big-name free agent, Boylen is confident that once he sits down and talks to a guy, the player will see what he’s really about.
“I don’t truly know a player until I coach him,’’ Boylen said. “Guys aren’t going to know me until they play here or play for us. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve had great relationships with players and worked hard for them, cared for them and told them the truth.’’
Forward Otto Porter Jr. vouched for that. He was acquired from the Wizards on Feb. 6 and didn’t know what to expect from his new coach. He knows now and has embraced Boylen’s philosophy. Porter is trying to get his younger teammates to espouse the Boylen way.
“I think it’s very important that the guys understand what he’s trying to say — that everybody needs to be on the same page,’’ Porter said. “We have one goal in common, and that’s to win championships. Guys have to buy in.
“He’s definitely old-school, and I’m old-school. I kind of like it, but that’s what you’re going to need. You’re going to need someone who tells you what it is.’’
It’s a style and mentality that Boylen doesn’t plan to change, either.
“Change is hard on people,’’ Boylen said. “There was a shock to the system here that I thought was necessary, although at times it was painful and difficult.
‘‘I think we’re going to see the benefits of that in the future.’’