Forget Doug Collins; Bulls coach Jim Boylen has bigger issues looming

Bulls players are aware that the front office is looking to restructure, and that could mean the end of Boylen’s tenure. The problem is, not many seem upset about it.

SHARE Forget Doug Collins; Bulls coach Jim Boylen has bigger issues looming

As if coach Jim Boylen didn’t have enough to deal with in a season of injured players and mounting losses.

On Friday, he had to engage in damage control after a published report detailed his deteriorating relationship with Bulls senior adviser Doug Collins, compounding a situation in which he has to deal with players who are aware of impending front-office changes that could lead to Boylen’s dismissal.

Several players have brought up Boylen’s status in the last week, and not in the most flattering light. Then guard Denzel Valentine went on the record and discussed the state of affairs before the game against the Pacers.

Asked if the locker room was still listening to Boylen, considering the growing speculation outside the United Center, Valentine said, “I mean, he has a voice. He’s been our coach all year, so, hey, whatever happens to him is what happens. But for now, he’s our coach. It is what it is.’’

Valentine did say the players are refraining from speculating on Boylen’s future.

“That’s not our business,’’ he said. ‘‘Our job is to come and compete every day, try to get a win. All the stuff in the media, they’re going to say what they want to say.’’

That wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement from Valentine, especially considering the respect he has for coaches. His father coached him in high school, brother Drew is an assistant at Loyola and Denzel played at Michigan State for highly respected Tom Izzo.

If there’s anyone who should hold the coaching seat in high regard, it’s Valentine. But he wasn’t rushing to Boylen’s defense.

“You may not agree with some of the things he’s saying, disagree with how he feels about certain things, but we’re here as players to try to be coachable,’’ Valentine said.

Earlier, Boylen was asked about his relationship with Collins, and he denied that there had been a falling-out.

“Really good,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘Yeah, not sure exactly how that report came to be, but those things happen, I guess. You know Doug doesn’t work for me. He was hired by the ownership and management. All my interaction with Doug has been very positive. He’s been in my meetings, he’s been on the floor with the team, but I don’t control his schedule or if he’s here or not here. That’s not what I do. We’ve had a very good, a very close relationship since I’ve been here, since he’s been here.’’

A source said that deeming the situation a falling-out was a matter of semantics, but there was no question the relationship was not what it used to be. Collins comes and goes around the Advocate Center as he pleases, so Boylen believes his frequent absence undercuts his power to offer valid opinions.

When asked if there had been a disagreement in a coaches’ meeting with Collins, Boylen said, “Not that I know of.’’

But this is standard fare for Bulls coaches. Even mild-mannered Fred Hoiberg told the front office that he didn’t want former Bull Toni Kukoc to attend practices because he thought he was being undermined, and Tom Thibodeau quickly closed practices to most onlookers because he knew all about the front-office spies lurking around.

But Boylen has more pressing issues than Collins, starting with making sure his players stay the course for the last 19 games.

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