Arturas Karnisovas will take over as head of basketball for the Chicago Bulls, and it will reportedly be his decision who coaches the team.
While that means Jim Boylen could keep the head coaching job, it seems more likely that he’ll bring someone new into the mix. The first name being linked to the gig is Toronto Raptors lead assistant Adrian Griffin.
Karnisovas, who is from Lithuania, played college basketball for the Seton Hall Pirates from 1990 until 1994. Starting in 1992, he and Griffin were actually teammates on that squad.
Griffin, who was a coach in the Rising Stars Challenge at the United Center earlier this year, spoke about his affection for Chicago (via NBC Sports):
“It was awesome. A lot of memories here obviously — five years coaching, three years playing, D-Rose MVP year. All that stuff comes back when I walk in this building. It always feels like home. I raised my children here. So it’s just a special place and it’s just a great city — the fans and the community. That’s what I miss the most.”
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Chicago’s VP of basketball operations John Paxson is then “expected to move into an advisory role” within the organization.
Sam Smith, who wrote for the Chicago Tribune from 1979 until 2018, explained what Paxson liked about Griffin (via The Ringer):
“What the 2004-05 team represented was Paxson’s view of what an NBA team should be. Paxson was intent on changing the character of the team and adopting the character of what Chicago likes to see in itself—hard-working, tough, blue collar. He wanted hard-hat, lunch-bucket guys. The veterans he brought in were the same profile of tough overachievers: Adrian Griffin, Othella Harrington and Antonio Davis.”
According to one executive, per Joe Cowley, Griffin is “overqualified” for the position. He has long been one of the people most likely to become a head coach and is well-liked and respected by players around the league, including former Bulls star Jimmy Butler.
Teams coached by Griffin have ranked Top 5 among all teams in defensive rating six different seasons. He won his first NBA championship last year as an assistant on the Toronto Raptors.
Back in December, we mentioned Griffin as an under-the-radar candidate to become the next head coach of the New York Knicks. Griffin was considered for Chicago’s head coaching job back in 2015 (via Marc Stein):
“It should be noted that an alternative scenario making the rounds holds that the Bulls, if they can’t get [Fred] Hoiberg, will strongly consider promoting longtime Thibs aide Adrian Griffin, who is often touted as future head-coaching material and who, given the chance, just might be able to preserve the best of Thibs’ principles with a good bit less friction between the coach and the folks upstairs.”
He was an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks from 2008 until 2010. Griffin reportedly “barely filed his retirement papers” before he was offered a job as an assistant coach for Milwaukee.
Griffin has interviewed to be the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers (2012), Detroit Pistons (2013), Philadelphia 76ers (2013), Utah Jazz (2014), Cleveland Cavaliers (2014), Houston Rockets (2016) and Orlando Magic (2016). He reportedly had a “real shot” to coach the Magic and was a finalist for the position.
Jordan Greer wrote about why Griffin is such an attractive option (via Sporting News):
“Following nearly a decade as a player, Griffin has served as an assistant coach in Milwaukee, Chicago, Orlando and currently Oklahoma City. He has a habit of building relationships with those around him. He’s a guy who has made an impact at every stop but doesn’t need to take credit for individual or team success. Griffin is also a defensive-minded coach, having spent time under Tom Thibodeau with the Bulls.”
Considering he is known as a relationship-builder, it is worth looking at his history with people potentially in the front office for the Bulls. Some of the candidates to become Chicago’s next general manager include Michael Finley, Calvin Booth, Matt Lloyd, Nazr Mohammed and Troy Weaver.
Griffin was teammates with Finley on the Dallas Mavericks (2001-2003 and 2005-2006) and was also teammates with Booth (2001) in Dallas. He played for Chicago when Lloyd was their senior manager of basketball operations (2006-2007) and he was an assistant coach for Orlando in 2015-2016 when Lloyd was their assistant GM.
Also, Griffin coached Mohammed (who reportedly “really wants the gig“) on the Bulls from 2012 until 2015. And when Griffin was an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2016 until 2018, Weaver was their assistant GM.
He has all the relationships necessary for a position like this and has ties to Chicago. Hiring him would make all the sense in the world for the Bulls.