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Passion for Bulls basketball has long been in Arturas Karnisovas’ blood

Whether it was playing on the same court with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen during the Olympics or the famous introduction music, Karnisovas has always wanted to be associated with the Bulls.

“One of my primary goals is to establish player development,’’ the Bulls’ Arturas Karnisovas said. “We are the second-youngest team in the league, great young core.”
“One of my primary goals is to establish player development,’’ the Bulls’ Arturas Karnisovas said. “We are the second-youngest team in the league, great young core.”

Playing against the “Dream Team’’ in the 1992 Olympics made a huge impression on Arturas Karnisovas.

It probably wasn’t as big an impression as the one Charles Barkley’s elbow made on him, but it was close.

To finally share the court with Bulls legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on that stage meant something to the Lithuanian-born player. As did running out of the garage to the famous Bulls introduction music in his younger days, hoping someday that he could be a member of the franchise.

So being in complete control of that franchise has to be a bit surreal.

“I have a long history of passion for this team and organization,’’ Karnisovas said.

And Karnisovas, 48, was built for this.

He started to restructure the Bulls’ front office almost immediately last week, agreeing in principle to become the executive vice president of basketball operations and making two quick hires in his first few days on the job.

On Monday, the organization made Karnisovas’ title official, and team president Michael Reinsdorf couldn’t have been more thrilled.

“If we picked the wrong person, it could take years to recover, so we needed to get this right,’’ Reinsdorf said. “I loved the idea of bringing in someone from the outside to lead this organization. It’s worked incredibly well on the business side.

“We wanted someone who could bring their own ideas and concepts and have a strong, strong presence — a leader who would be process-oriented in trying to build a winning team.’’

Karnisovas met all those requirements and then some for Michael, as well as team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

But even before that point was reached, Michael Reinsdorf admitted that it was former vice president of basketball operations John Paxson who came to the ownership group to let it be known that it was time for a change.

“I said when the time comes for the Chicago Bulls to make a change, John would be the one to let us know, and that was indeed what ended up happening,’’ Michael Reinsdorf said.

Maybe that’s why Paxson will remain as a special adviser in the organization. The Reinsdorfs insist that Paxson always put the organization first, even above his own job security.

But now they have a new voice in place. The Bulls’ front office has been behind the times for years, and Karnisovas will be in charge of an overhaul.

“My professional philosophy is knowing players, constant communication, roster balance and dealmaking creativity,’’ Karnisovas said in a teleconference. “It’s team sports, so as a leader, I have to understand individual roles and commit to the execution of those responsibilities. When I come in, I’ll have time to do that. I’m going to evaluate the current structure and where the blind spots are. I already hired two guys — J.J. Polk [as assistant GM] and Pat Connelly [player personnel] — who are going to join the organization. So I’ve already started that process.’’

Next up for Karnisovas will be hiring a general manager, as well as adding new department heads and depth in each office along the way.

Then there will be a total evaluation of the coaching staff and the roster. Karnisovas believes he can really make an impact with the roster, especially on the developmental side.

“One of my primary goals is to establish player development,’’ Karnisovas said. “We are the second-youngest team in the league, great young core. The Bulls drafted well. So players want to play, [and] they want to win.

“My job is going to be to facilitate that. It was a huge thing for us in Denver, and it’s going to be huge here in Chicago because we’re going to have to improve our players.’’