Bulls’ new front office playing long game on coaching change
For several decades, the Bulls have been tone-deaf when it comes to their reputation for handling head coaches. The new front office might be the perfect remedy for that problem.
It’s not a good look. And it hasn’t been for a few decades.
Put it this way: The Bulls’ two best coaches — Phil Jackson and Tom Thibodeau — left the organization under less-than-harmonious circumstances.
Heck, the team fired Scott Skiles and Tim Floyd on Christmas Eve.
Teams break up with coaches; it’s inevitable. The Bulls, however, seem to take it to a different level. It’s almost as though the coaching chair is a mere commodity to be discarded at any time.
So while the fan base waits impatiently for the firing of coach Jim Boylen, a little perspective is in order.
Organizationally, the Bulls can’t keep treating coaches — and even former players, really — so cavalierly. The new front office isn’t tone-deaf to that history.
So if executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas wants to take his time dealing with Boylen and the rest of the staff, it has to be viewed as a positive.
If the front office is willing to give a coach that has a .317 winning percentage in 123 games, like Boylen does, a fair and real assessment, how would they treat a coach who is winning games and making playoff runs?
That will carry weight. Perhaps not right away, but eventually.
Coaches talk, and the talk around the Bulls for years has been that they don’t just fire you, they try to assassinate your character to justify the move. It’s a practice that has to stop.
The Sun-Times has reported for weeks that Boylen’s fate was all but sealed, with Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley getting enough mixed feedback from players and other personnel to make the case that they want their own guy in the coaching seat for 2020-21.
Michael and Jerry Reinsdorf have offered support for Boylen, but multiple sources have stressed ownership trusts Karnisovas and Co. and will allow them to have the final say on basketball matters.
Players Zach LaVine and Thaddeus Young spoke with the media in a Zoom meeting Friday, and each played politician with the Boylen question.
‘‘It’s not for me to judge somebody,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I think [Boylen] goes out there and does his best. I don’t think anyone in this organization or the NBA goes out there and tries to fail.
‘‘Decisions on things like that, I leave that up to higher management. That’s not my role in the organization.’’
Young took a similar approach.
‘‘That’s not a question for me to answer,’’ Young said. ‘‘Obviously, Jim is very energetic — probably one of the more energetic coaches I’ve played for. . . . Whatever coach we have out there at the time, let him lead and we follow.’’
Now that the Advocate Center is reopened for work and members of the front office are expected in and out of town in the next few weeks, Karnisovas will have the opportunity to show the Reinsdorfs he assessed Boylen in person.
After the NBA board of governors voted to move forward with a 22-team restart and player representatives approved it Friday, the Bulls’ season officially has come to an end. But the business of basketball has to continue.
Sources have told the Sun-Times that 76ers assistant Ime Udoka is the front-runner to become the Bulls’ new coach, with Raptors assistant — and former Bulls assistant — Adrian Griffin also in the picture.
Karnisovas and Eversley are familiar with both men, and each is more than qualified for the position. It’s a win-win, but it’s also a process.
There’s no one who secretly has been waiting in the wings for a year or two. There are no underhanded side deals being made.
For once, the Bulls are doing things the right way.