There was some frustration in that for Respert, who fel…

There was some frustration in that for Respert, who felt like his ideas and philosophies weren’t always heard, despite several players building tight relationships with him and appreciating his knowledge of the game. The bigger picture, however, is Boylen is still operating as the head coach and making decisions like a guy that has no plans to be leaving that post anytime soon.

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Why would the Bulls blow up the front office, get their guy, let him reshape everything and then make it known they want to keep a coach who isn’t well-liked by players and hasn’t been successful? – Red J., via Twitter. They didn’t. Arturas Karnisovas runs basketball operations and has full authority to make basketball-related decisions. This was made abundantly clear during the interview process. All Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf did was explain the positive attributes he and former executive vice president John Paxson saw when they hired and extended Boylen and asked Karnisovas to get to know him before making a decision on Boylen’s future. From Karnisovas’ reputation around the league as a thoughtful, substantive decision-maker, it sounds like he would have done this anyway. But make no mistake: Boylen’s future will be Karnisovas’ call.
They’ve told Boylen to focus on coaching the team while they work to evaluate all departments, including him and his staff. Along those lines, Boylen is talking to players and his staff, and watching film. If there’s a resumption of the 2019-20 season for all 30 teams, I think it’s more likely than not he coaches those games. Beyond that, I haven’t seen any belief or reporting, including mine, that suggests Boylen will be the long-term answer for this regime. It’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that most executives want their own coaches in place. Heck, John Paxson fired his former teammate in Bill Cartwright to bring in Scott Skiles less than six months after succeeding Jerry Krause.
When Karnisovas and Marc Eversley were hired, both executives made a point of saying they’d evaluate every department and that they’d work to make the Bulls a players-first organization. Given that players occasionally questioned their usages and the offensive and defensive systems last season, their feedback on Boylen won’t be all positive. Nobody doubts Boylen’s care factor, which Karnisovas has publicly acknowledged. But when there’s clarity on the NBA calendar, and the offseason and start date for 2020-21, there will be more clarity on Boylen.
The arguments for keeping Boylen are that he cares about the organization, that several players have spoken very favorably about him and that he carried out what the previous front office wanted this season, even with a mostly injured roster. But two things might sink Boylen. First, according to a source, several key players ripped Boylen to the new front office. And there’s also the elephant in the room of a 39-84 (.317) record since Boylen took over from Fred Hoiberg in December 2018.
Boylen has laid low since the NBA suspended its season on March 11. His lone public comments came two weeks ago, in the form of a team-issued press release in which he welcomed Karnisovas, congratulated Michael and Jerry Reinsdorf and thanked former bosses John Paxson and Gar Forman once more. Behind the scenes, however, Boylen is working as if he’ll be in place next season. A league source told The Athletic minor changes already are in the works with the current staff.
Karnisovas, according to a source, wants to give his head coach, whether it’s Boylen or someone else, full autonomy in choosing his staff while the revamped front office focuses on player acquisitions. Until now, the Bulls had little reason to bother addressing Boylen’s future. And for as long as play is suspended — with no real end in sight — there is no rush.
So who could the next coach be? Two current assistant coaches are standing out as increasingly possible Boylen replacements whenever the job may open: Toronto’s Adrian Griffin and Philadelphia’s Ime Udoka. Both have ties to the new front-office regime. Both have long been mentioned in coaching circles as lead-man material. And on multiple levels, both fit the mold the Bulls previously have pursued.
As of Saturday, Karnisovas had no definite plans to meet with current coach Jim Boylen, said a source, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The front office build-out is priority No. 1, but the NBA can announce a shutdown of the regular season at any point, and it would only be fair to let Boylen and his staff know if they need to start looking elsewhere or would be returning.
KC Johnson: Wrote this but bears repeating: Bulls' focus is on building front office, not coach, for now, particularly with normal NBA calendar/offseason rhythm disrupted by COVID-19. Would expect further dialogue between Arturas Karnisovas and Jim Boylen.
Karnisovas will have full decision making over basketball operations, including the futures of Forman, head coach Jim Boylen, and the entire coaching staff. He was even asked about Paxson, and had the option of having the organization move on from the long-time Bulls executive if that’s what he desired. However, a source indicated that Karnisovas had no issues with the Reinsdorfs keeping Paxson around.
And make no mistake about it, Karnisovas will have full control over basketball operations, including the futures of Forman, head coach Jim Boylen, and the entire coaching staff. A source told the Sun-Times Thursday morning that Boylen is already concerned that he will be ousted, and was hoping to sit down with his new bosses and discuss his year-and-a-half on the job. Whether Boylen will get that opportunity is obviously yet to be decided, but even his biggest supporters — the Reinsdorfs — won’t be throwing a life preserver his way if Karnisovas wants to go in a different direction.
As has been written and said plenty, ownership and management first hired and then extended Boylen because they saw a teacher who held players accountable. So, yes, the full evaluation of Boylen moves beyond won-loss record. And that’s why Boylen answered confidently when asked if it would surprise him if management used the Bulls’ poor record against him. “Yes, it would,” he said. “I don’t foresee that happening.”
Speaking individually to a handful of media outlets before the game against the Clippers, Paxson backed coach Jim Boylen and reiterated that Boylen isn’t on the hot seat in his first full season. “First of all, our fan base has been terrific, and I’m really sensitive to [their frustration],’’ Paxson said. “I want our fans to care about us; I want them to see a product out there that they can root for. I get it. I own that. I own that we’re not at that level. I’m in lockstep with Jim and his commitment to where we want to get to. That’s not wavering at all.’’ When asked if Boylen was in trouble, Paxson said, ‘‘No, no.’’ No Christmas Day surprises, such as a coach getting fired? “No, look, there is no quick fix to right where we’re at,’’ Paxson said. “I’ll say this again, I thought — and we all did — we would have a better record than we do right now. I do believe we have talent. It’s young, and there’s not a lot of experience, but I do believe we have talent. So we’ve underperformed in that area, but there’s no quick fix in this right now. That’s the view I have to take.’’
Joe Cowley: Paxson on Boylen job security: When asked if Boylen was in trouble, Paxson responded, “No, no … ‘’ No Christmas Day surprises about a coach getting fired? “No … look there is no quick fix to right where we’re at,'' Paxson said.
A team that entered the year with playoff hopes finds itself just 8-16 against a relatively soft early schedule. Yet our reading of the tea leaves says Jim Boylen is safe. For now. Probably. League sources say that team president John Paxson remains a fan of Boylen’s tough-love approach despite the disappointing results thus far. Part of the blame for the slow start can also be shared by injuries to Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison that left the team with no real small forwards. Boylen’s defensive scheme has drawn plenty of criticism, especially since it’s an odd fit for a big lineup that aside from Thaddeus Young lacks fleet-footed bigs.
But to be fair, Chicago’s 29th-ranked offense is the more pressing concern. Sources say Boylen remains unpopular in the Chicago locker room, which isn’t surprising given that his tenure began with a near-mutiny over his grueling practices and formation of the much-derided “Leadership Committee.” His unpopularity with the players would be the driving force behind any move by management, who otherwise seem satisfied and gave him an extension before the season.
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