Bulls coach Jim Boylen gets stamp of approval from legend Gregg Popovich
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SAN ANTONIO — If consulted, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would gladly give Jim Boylen advice.
It’s just that Popovich doesn’t think Boylen needs any.
Boylen’s myriad critics won’t want to hear that.
“We have spoken, but I don’t counsel him,’’ Popovich said Saturday. “He doesn’t need my counsel. He’s been coaching a long time, and he knows what it takes to win. He knows how to put a program together.
“It’s always tough to take over a program without a training camp and do everything you want to do, but he’s a pretty straightforward, honest individual, and he’ll do it the way he thinks is best for that group. And he’ll be fair, he’ll be demanding and he’ll try to make everything clear so whatever system he wants to employ will get across.
“I’ve learned as much from him as he has learned from us here. My counsel is not necessary.’’
That support from a five-time NBA championship coach should carry some weight and allay the front office’s fears that its decision to fire Fred Hoiberg and go with Boylen might have backfired.
Boylen said it was an honor to have Popovich on speed dial if he’s ever in need of a quick conversation and praised him for the program that he has built. Boylen saw the Spurs’ way firsthand; he was an assistant during their 2014 championship run.
“[I saw] that you can coach your guys hard, you can demand excellence and still build relationships,’’ Boylen said. “Still play hard, still compete, and at the end of the day, you’re at the whim of the character of your guys. And they’ve had some big-time character dudes. That’s what you learn there.
“They’re big believers in less is more. Sometimes we all kind of take ourselves a little too seriously, do a little too much, overcoach or whatever. But there, it’s less is more. Keep it simple, get in a stance, keep your man in front of you, move the ball [in] .5 [seconds]. They don’t really have a rule book there.
‘‘They have standards of behavior and play. That’s the beauty of that place. They have standards. That’s what we’re trying to get to. We have these standards that we uphold and believe in, and we’re trying to do some of that here.’’
It’s not the easiest task, considering Boylen has taken over with the season well underway. Like Boylen, Popovich took over the Spurs in a midseason transition, so he knows how difficult Boylen’s job will be.
“It’s always difficult,’’ Popovich said. “This is a rare, difficult situation to be in, but, like I always tell my players, if those sorts of things are the worst things you go through, your life is going to be pretty easy. It’s basketball, so get over it.’’
Rookie forward Chandler Hutchison was back in the rotation Saturday after battling an illness that hit him hard in Mexico City.
That meant Jabari Parker was back in his new role as third-string small forward and bench cheerleader. Parker was asked if Boylen had informed him that his role could change soon and said he wasn’t even thinking that way.
“No, but I can’t trust that,’’ Parker said. “I just stay ready. And that shouldn’t dictate the way I work. It’s bigger than just playing at this moment.’’