Eleven weeks ago in this space, I called Chicago the “disaster area of the coaching profession.”
What can I say? I was feeling charitable.
“Of the 13 cities or markets with at least one team in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB,” I wrote, “Chicago simply has to rank last or, best case, tied for last as far as the collective accomplishments and reputations of its coaches.”
First of all, please, somebody stop me before I quote myself again. Talk about gauche.
But I wasn’t wrong. With one good season — and another one stained by poor decision-making and zero quarterback development — the Bears’ Matt Nagy was the closest thing we had to something to brag about. The White Sox’ Rick Renteria had yet to catch a whiff of a winning season as a manager. The Blackhawks’ Jeremy Colliton was a baby behind the bench. The Cubs’ David Ross was a rookie-in-waiting.
Oh, and then there was the Bulls’ Jim Boylen. A coach I’d once referred to as “Pop Zero,” an ultra-light version of the former boss whose name he loved to drop, the great Gregg Popovich. But now I’m quoting myself again.
Boylen invoking Popovich’s name during conversations with the media smacked uncannily of former Illinois football coach Tim Beckman doing likewise with an old boss of his, Urban Meyer. It was like your Uncle Earl holding court on the art of method acting because he once was an extra in a Daniel Day-Lewis film. Meyer and Popovich are coaching masters. Beckman and Boylen are sitcom P.E. teachers.
But Boylen is yesterday’s news now, kicked to the curb, eighty-sixed by the Bulls on Friday in a decision that was comically overdue. Congrats to new vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, who now can move on to even more vexing questions such as “Which way is up?” and “Did I remember to turn off the coffee machine?”
It would seem Karnisovas couldn’t pick a worse successor to Boylen if he tried. Presumably, though, Karnisovas will aim for a lot more than just modest improvement. Will he succeed? Chicago’s standing in the coaching profession sure could use a “yes.”
Our coaching scene has gotten, it must be said, a bit brighter since 11 weeks ago. For one thing, sports is happening again, and thank goodness for that. But Ross has skippered the Cubs to the best record in baseball, certainly giving the impression that he’s cut out for this kind of work. Colliton and the Hawks have had a somewhat promising time in their Edmonton, Alberta, bubble. Renteria has a fine chance to win more games than he loses for a change.
Still, we’re awfully small-time compared with, just to name one example, the Los Angeles market. There, you’ll find one coach or manager after another — Doc Rivers, Sean McVay, Dave Roberts, Joe Maddon — whose reputation precedes him.
Wouldn’t it be terrific if the Bulls hired someone like that? Truthfully, I’d settle for someone who convincingly talks a big game like that. Can we at least get someone who comes across more like a star than like a random coworker in the next cubicle?
Back to 11 weeks ago: Also at that time, the Sun-Times ran a Twitter poll asking fans to vote for Chicago’s best veteran head coach. Ross hadn’t made his debut yet, so the choices were — quite the undistinguished group — Renteria, Nagy, Colliton and Boylen.
Care to take a flying stab at which guy received 1.8% of the vote? Here’s a hint: “Pop Zero” wasn’t far off at all. Even in this town, at that time, Boylen stood out for his inability to stand out.
We need a standout. The Bulls are on the clock.