Bulls coach Jim Boylen is standing on solid ground for a return next season
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John Paxson insisted weeks ago that any decision regarding the coaching future of Jim Boylen “has nothing to do with money.’’
Considering the Bulls were recently valued at $2.9 billion by Forbes magazine, money should never be a factor for the team’s vice president of basketball operations.
But that’s not necessarily how it works over at the second-floor offices of the Advocate Center.
Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has always been tied to a very obvious principle when it comes to coaches and managers. Like it or not, they are basically considered disposable commodities.
Hawk Harrelson was allowed to fire Tony La Russa, and Ken Williams was given the blessing to trade Ozzie Guillen on the White Sox side of business. And as far as the Bulls, the Paxson and Gar Forman regime has devoured coaches as if they were chew toys.
So where does that leave Boylen in his coaching seat?
Currently, he’s very comfortable.
The Bulls will still be paying $5 million to former coach Fred Hoiberg next season, and another $1.6 million ($1 million guaranteed) to Boylen if he meets certain incentives. According to Paxson, however, Boylen won’t stick just because of checks that need to go out.
“We can’t control perception,’’ Paxson said recently. “The only people who really know are those of us in the building. I know that everyone has their contacts, and they talk to people, but [Boylen staying as coach] has nothing to do with money. If that’s your question, it has nothing to do with money.’’
So what will keep Boylen around for another season?
First and foremost, he has done exactly what was asked of him by Paxson and Forman.
When Hoiberg was dismissed on Dec. 3, the 5-19 record carried almost zero weight in that decision. The feeling from Paxson and Forman was some of his younger players were becoming divas.
But should Hoiberg have been blamed for that?
Coming up as a player, Hoiberg spent most of his days in locker rooms with veterans such as Kevin Garnett policing teammates. Hoiberg’s philosophy was vets run the locker room.
Shame on the front office if that didn’t come out in the interview process. And if it did, shame on management for not giving Hoiberg the right veteran voices to make it work.
That’s where Boylen comes in.
In the estimation of the front office, Boylen has a boot-camp mentality a la Tom Thibodeau, but also an open-door policy for Forman and Paxson to walk in and express their ideas.
Was Boylen initially hard on the players when he took over? Heck, yeah, he was, but he was also carrying out a code red from above. The belief was this roster was too soft and needed a blue-collar identity moving forward.
“One thing we’re really pleased about, and we talk to Jim about this because we’re such a young team, is just the teaching component of the game to our guys consistently every day,’’ Paxson said. “That first week with the whole Boston game, that was a bad way to start, but when you’re in it with him every day, you see his passion, his commitment and the care he has for his players and our organization.
“So we feel he’s doing the right things. He’s trying to get our guys to understand what being a professional is, and to play hard every night and practice hard every day.’’
Is there a scenario in which Boylen is dismissed after this season?
There would have to be a catastrophic breakdown of communication between coach and players over the last 24 games for that to happen, which seems unlikely.
Then again, these are the Bulls.