Bulls GM Marc Eversley expected to be the ultimate relationship-builder

Eversley agreed to take the job earlier this week, but in being introduced officially on Friday, the onetime standout at Nike knows the key to getting the Bulls back on top starts with player relationships and changing the current image of the franchise.

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Marc Eversley is the Bulls’ first black general manager.

Marc Eversley is the Bulls’ first black general manager.

Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

The Bulls’ old front office had its way of conducting business — one of many reasons it wasn’t working. Former vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and former general manager Gar Forman would at times have differences of opinion about a player or a trade, but sources claimed over the years that Forman made it a point to surround himself with “yes men’’ in a department already considered tiny by NBA standards.

That’s fundamentally different from how Arturas Karnisovas, the new vice president of basketball operations, wants to operate.

Karnisovas, the former Nuggets general manager who took over the Bulls on April 13 with Forman’s firing and Paxson’s reassignment to a senior adviser role, says he wants to be challenged by his new GM, and in turn wants the GM to be challenged by his assistants in each of a number of still-expanding departments.

Karnisovas found Marc Eversely to be the perfect choice for the job.

“Talking to him throughout this process, I liked his vision on structure and what is important for the organization,” Karnisovas said Friday as he officially introduced Eversley, the Bulls’ first African American general manager. “I will use a lot of his ideas. In many ways, his values are close to mine. We value inclusion of staff. We will challenge our staff. We will implement transparency, communication, functionality. And finally, Marc’s relationship with players and coaches will play a key role.”

The Canadian-born Eversley, a former executive with the Raptors and most recently the 76ers — including two stints under Bryan Colangelo — has turned relationship-building into an art form over the years, and his hiring is being applauded not just within the Bulls but leaguewide.

“Everything starts and ends with winning,” Eversley said Friday. “We need to focus our culture and mindset to be about excellence day in and day out. I’m so excited to start this chapter. For Bulls fans, hear me when I say it: Our ultimate goal is to bring an NBA championship back to the city of Chicago.”

Eversley will oversee the implementation of all elements of basketball operations for the Bulls. He brings a knack for connecting not just with players but also their families, agents and representatives — skills he has developed since his days with Nike.

“Simply put, it was critical,” Eversley said of his Nike background. “Relationships move the needle in this business, and it really starts at the grassroots. I was fortunate enough to work at Nike at a time when LeBron James and players like that were coming up through the system. It really taught me the value of relationships. It taught me the value of a brand, really.

“It’s my hope that I can take some of the lessons that I’ve learned at Nike and implement them here with Chicago as a goal to get the [Bulls] back to relevancy and get that brand back to where it’s cool again and kids want to be part of it. That’s one of my goals, for sure.”

Relationship-building was what caught the eye of then-Raptors GM Colangelo, who first hired Eversley to join his staff in 2006. A decade later, Colangelo and Eversley were reunited in Philadelphia. Eversley was promoted to senior vice president of player personnel for the 76ers, spending the last two seasons in that role.

Now comes the next step in his climb.

“In the teams that I’ve been with prior, we’ve always fostered healthy debate and communication,” Eversley said. “After talking to Arturas, that’s something he welcomes. As long as you do it in a respectful way, you can do great things.”

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