As Bulls losses pile up, Jim Boylen doesn’t feel they define his ‘calling’
Boylen is 37-80 since taking over for Fred Hoiberg, but when asked on Tuesday if he would be surprised if the front office would use that against him this offseason, he responded, “Yes, I would.”
The losses keep mounting for the Bulls. And coach Jim Boylen continues walking the fine line of whether they’ll matter at the end of the season.
Despite a third quarter Tuesday night in which the Bulls outscored the visiting Thunder 38-19 — and even with Bulls rookie Coby White scoring a career-high 35 points and Zach LaVine contributing a game-high 41 — the Thunder rallied late to regain control and hang on for a 124-122 victory.
The loss dropped Boylen’s record as Bulls coach to 37-80 — a .316 winning percentage since he took over from Fred Hoiberg after Hoiberg’s firing in December 2018. The Bulls fell to 20-39 this season.
That doesn’t exactly scream “Keep Boylen around.” Then again, the Bulls always seem to walk to the beat of their own busted-up, strange-sounding drum.
“It is hard for me,” Boylen said of all the losses. “But that’s not my calling. That’s not what they ask me to do. Nobody in this organization said to me, ‘You’ve got to win this many games.’ Nobody said to me, ‘Hey, we’re going to talk about wins and losses all year.’ Not one time have they said that to me. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to win. It doesn’t mean we’re not trying to win, but nobody said that to me.
“I have to honor the organization with trying to do this thing the right way. If we do that and if we can get healthy, I feel good about it.”
Asked if it would shock him if, at the end of the season, the front office did judge him by his win-loss record, Boylen said, “Yes, it would. I don’t foresee that happening.”
That’s not what Bulls fans want to hear, necessarily, especially after team executives publicly set a goal this season of reaching the playoffs. But according to Boylen, once injuries started piling up, the front office had to understand that development was the focus once again — with wins and losses taking a back seat.
“It is a win-loss league, but that’s not the only thing that gets evaluated,” he said. “Are we establishing a style of play? I think we have. Have we cleaned up our defense that needed to be cleaned up? I think we have. Have we established a shot profile that’s top five in the league? I think we’re three right now in the shots we get compared to other teams. So those are all positive things. And then you can look at the what-ifs, which I don’t do very often. With our shot profile, what would Otto Porter do in that shot profile? He’d be pretty successful. And Lauri Markkanen and right on down the line.
“I’m not worried about my personal record or my win-loss record. I’ve been asked to establish a style of play, to have a disciplined approach and develop a young group of guys. And in my opinion, we are doing that.”
Case in point: White’s video-game-like run continued Tuesday. He followed his back-to-back 33-point showings with 35 on 6-for-9 shooting from three-point range.
Boylen was adamant again after the game that he’ll continue to use White in a bench role rather than putting him in the starting lineup. Luckily, what matters most to White right now is finishing games.
“[My confidence] is pretty high right now,” White said. “All the hard work is paying off, I guess.”