Bulls fire coach Jim Boylen as team looks to take ‘fresh approach’

Boylen compiled an overall record of 39-84 (.317) during his tenure.

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The Bulls fired Jim Boylen, the team announced Friday.

The Bulls fired Jim Boylen, the team announced Friday.

Mark Lennihan/AP

There seemed to be a lot the old Bulls regime was willing to overlook in the Jim Boylen Era.

The head coach wasn’t exactly endeared by his players, definitely wasn’t a fan favorite, and most of all there was that .317 winning percentage that couldn’t simply be explained away by injury or bad luck.

According to a Bulls source, however, there was also a continued behavior displayed by Boylen — even with new bosses in the building — that was considered “detrimental to the organization,” leaving new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas no choice but to remove Boylen from the position on Friday morning.

Asked to detail the reasons of the firing, however, Karnisovas was walking firm on that high road.

“Since it was a very unique situation to be hired in April, we took our time,” Karnisovas said to the media in a Zoom call. “The restrictions were lifted, a little bit more interaction was involved. I think at the end of the day I would like to thank Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf for trusting me to make that basketball decision. There were definitely discussions with ownership, but at the end of the day the autonomy was left up to me.’’

Asked directly if Boylen’s behavior factored in, Karnisovas again wouldn’t go that direction.

“The decision was based on mainly of the basketball part of it, so a basketball decision was made,” Karnisovas said.

Asked specifically if he was aware of some troublesome red flags, he responded, “Again, it was based on a basketball decision.”

The Sun-Times learned that one of a handful of incidents Boylen had with organizational personnel involved a verbal run-in with a team chef several years ago that included a team lawyer getting involved, as well as a warning for Boylen.

However, it was a warning that seemed to have little staying power, as the feeling was that Boylen become more and more comfortable with abusing his power under former general manager Gar Forman and executive John Paxson.

Once Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley were able to get in the building on a consistent basis, hear from human resources on the Boylen file, and then witness some of the red flags themselves in such a short time, well, even being well liked by the Reinsdorfs wasn’t going to save Boylen’s job.

Factor in the way the players felt about the coach, and with the regular season coming to an end it was time for that head coaching office to be cleaned out.

The Sun-Times reported back in April that several key Bulls players made their feelings known to the new regime about Boylen, and Karnisovas admitted that it was a factor as well.

“Doing this research, I mean they are one of the components of the criteria and evaluation, so they were part of it,” Karnisovas said. “Players are always a part of it.”

As for the rest of the coaching staff, they are expected to currently stay on and still undergo evaluation. The priority is beginning the search for the team’s 24th head coach, and Karnisovas plans to again remain deliberate in that process.

“Well the signal is we’re changing things,” Karnisovas said. “It signals that we’re looking forward to what comes next. We just felt that this program needed a change and needed a change now, and I can’t wait to find the next coach for this group.”

The Sun-Times reported months ago that 76ers assistant coach Ime Udoka was on the radar as the leading candidate to replace Boylen, and according to one scout that hasn’t changed entering the process.

“There’s no deadline, timeline on it,” Karnisovas said. “I think again we live in very strange times, and we’re going to do our diligence. We’re going to start the search as of today.”

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