Bulls’ next coach has some serious repair work to do

Whoever gets the job will have several disgruntled players to deal with.

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Forward Lauri Markkanen might be the biggest beneficiary of a Bulls coaching change.

Forward Lauri Markkanen might be the biggest beneficiary of a Bulls coaching change.


What he wants from his coach is simple.

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has been transparent about that.

“In terms of what we’re going to be looking for, we’re going to continue focusing on player development, an emphasis on player development,’’ Karnisovas said in the wake of coach Jim Boylen’s firing less than two weeks ago. “Someone who puts the relationship with players first and is a good communicator. There are a lot of factors going on in terms of criteria that we’re looking at in a coach, but, again, those are the main ones.’’

So do they go first-time head coach, roll the dice from the college ranks or look at someone who has a more established head-coaching résumé at the NBA level?

Assistant coach Ime Udoka of the 76ers was said to be the early leader in the clubhouse, according to several NBA scouts, and there have been no indications that Udoka’s high standing has changed, especially with official interviews still being scheduled.

Whomever they eventually decide on, player development and communication had better be his strengths. And that communication has to begin with forward Lauri Markkanen.

No player needed a change of front office and coach more than Markkanen.

Forget the stats last season for the 7-footer. Everyone would like to. The real concern was that Markkanen ended the season privately making it known that he didn’t like the direction of the organization and wanted to be elsewhere if there wasn’t a change.

The good news is change did come, and it was sweeping.

With general manager Gar Forman and Boylen gone, the new coach has to be able to reach Markkanen and get him back on the right path. There was a time — February 2019 — that he looked like an All-Star headed for “unicorn’’ status in the NBA.

“[Markkanen] was disappointed by the overall result,’’ Karnisovas said earlier this offseason. “Every player wants to win. He’s about winning, as well.

“Our objective is to get the best version of Lauri next year. We agreed in conversations that this is our objective, and we’re going to try to do it.’’

But Markkanen is not the only Bull who needs fixing.

Denzel Valentine

No player had bigger issues with Boylen than the 2016 lottery pick (14th overall). The two had Michigan State ties, but that’s where the connection ended.

Boylen viewed Valentine as a “system player,’’ and Valentine saw Boylen as temporary.

But the swingman is one of the more consistent three-point shooters on the roster and can score in bunches when he’s healthy and out of the doghouse.

A restricted free agent-to-be, Valentine could receive a one-year qualifying offer for $4.7 million or the Bulls could let the market set a price for him, leaving them to decide if they want to keep him.

If he stays, a new coaching voice could resurrect his career.

Wendell Carter Jr. 

The second-year big man didn’t love how he was used in Boylen’s offense and also didn’t enjoy the prospect of being a center in a power forward’s body for the rest of his career.

The latter might not change for Carter anytime soon, even with a new coach, but getting touches instead of being used as a “garbage man’’ will be welcomed with open arms by the former Duke standout.

Year 3 for Carter isn’t make-or-break, but it is time for the new coach to identify his ceiling.

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