Bulls’ Jim Boylen doing it his way — and taking uncool to new levels

Coach gets lots of stink-eyes after calling a full timeout with about a minute left and his team trailing by 25 points.

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Bulls coach Jim Boylen gives instructions to his team during a game against the Timberwolves last month.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen gives instructions to his team during a game against the Timberwolves last month.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The NBA is the cool league, the hip league. It’s an entertainment industry, and almost everybody involved — players, coaches and executives — understands the glitz factor. I even have seen NBA beat writers who could write and pose for GQ.

I’ve seen NFL writers who could write and pose for ProFootballTalk.com.

NBA coaches have a worldliness about them that’s refreshing. You know and I know that a team trailing by 12 points with a minute left in a game isn’t going to win. NBA coaches know this, too, which is why we’re not subjected to 15 fouls, 20 minutes of tedium and a similar outcome to what would have occurred had the basketball bible been followed. This isn’t high school. It’s certainly not the exacting NFL.

It has taken me awhile to put a finger on what’s so jarring about Bulls coach Jim Boylen. The wise guys among you will say it’s his inability to produce victories. But that’s not it. Plenty of coaches struggle to win games consistently, but that doesn’t make them odd. Nor is it Boylen’s old-school tendencies.

What’s so discordant about him is that he’s very, very not cool. He doesn’t need a hip replacement; he needs an injection of hip. We had a pretty good idea of that last season, when he tried turning Bulls practices into boot camp and all but begged to be called Drill Sergeant Rambo. He backed off a bit when it dawned on him that he should have vetted his approach with HQ and command ops.

He had eyes rolling again Sunday.

With 1:04 left and his team down by 25 points to the Raptors, Boylen called a full timeout. This went against all that was good and right and cool in the NBA. There were a lot of stink-eyes aimed at him, some of them surely from his own players.

Raptors TV analyst Jack Armstrong spoke for many when he said — and I’m paraphrasing here — ‘‘Who let the schoolmarm in the building?’’

‘‘What are you doing? What strategy are you talking?’’ Armstrong said on the broadcast. ‘‘It’s a 25-point blowout. It’s Super Bowl Sunday. I want to get out of here.’’

Boylen had some coaching to do, he said afterward. Someone should have told him it could have waited until after the game. Or on the plane ride home. Or in a dark room at 3 a.m. when Boylen was breaking down game tape in his hair shirt.

But no. Adam Mokoka, a player on a two-way contract with the G League’s Windy City Bulls, was in serious need of Boylen’s late-game earnestness.

‘‘I wanted to run something with Mokoka in it so he can learn and grow,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘Put that pressure on him and try to develop. We’re trying to win and develop. And that was a development moment. It’d be different if we were up 20 and called timeout. If I can endure the last minute, the last timeout, and coach my team, I think the other team can, too. I’ve got to worry about us and what we’re going to do and who we have. That’s all I think about.’’

Think again. Please.

Boylen is selling player development, which you would, too, if your team was as bad as his is. The problem with the Bulls isn’t that they’re so young; it’s that they’re so unremarkable.

If you can’t tell, Boylen is very big on getting his message across publicly. The message sometimes seems to be about how he wants to be perceived. He wants his players to improve, of course, but he also wants you to know he’s all about teaching and teachable moments. The only way he could be more obvious about this is if he wore tweed jackets with elbow patches and quoted Chaucer.

We get it, Jim. But teach on your own time.

It’s OK for a coach to be a throwback as long as there’s success behind the metaphorical crew cut and wingtips. If there isn’t success — or even hope for the future — then the coach is simply a punch line. Doing it your way, as Boylen says he is, is honorable. Doing it your way when your way isn’t working is nonsensical.

The timeout against the Raptors was a small moment in a long season. But that’s the point: Boylen has 82 games to get his point across. Nothing he had to say or do in the last minute of a blowout couldn’t have waited until another time.

But he put his head down and went to work after everybody else had punched out. He probably should stop that. Or join the NFL.

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