Better late than never? After long wait, Bulls finally decide to fire Boylen
There were plenty of strange moments during Jim Boylen's tenure as head coach of the Bulls.
So maybe it was appropriate that vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, who was hired in April, chose Friday morning to finally pull the plug and fire Boylen, who coached his last game on March 10.
"Officially the last day of the regular season is today," Karnisovas said in a Zoom call with reporters. "So I thought the timing was right right now, going into the lottery and the draft process. It's an official offseason for us. So we thought it was good timing."
Karnisovas kept his comments brief and didn't offer much insight. He stressed that this was a basketball decision and ownership allowed him to make the call.
"I'd like to thank Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf for trusting me to make that basketball decision," Karnisovas said. "There were definitely discussions with the ownership. But at the end of the day, the timing was left up to me."
The bottom line is the Bulls badly needed a change of direction and they began the process in the spring by hiring Karnisovas. Changing head coaches is a logical next step.
There's no obvious candidate for the Bulls' job, so expect a lengthy search process that will allow the new management team of Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley to meet some of the rising stars of NBA coaching.
But don't be distracted. Firing Boylen doesn't change the Bulls' biggest issues. The franchise has been reeling since the 2017 decision to rebuild and a flawed roster was the biggest cause of disappointing results last season. There wasn't an effective veteran player who could be on the floor to guide a group of young players with no winning experience.
Previous management sabotaged the roster by signing Jabari Parker, then trading him for Otto Porter. Both have been poor fits as veteran leaders. Last season's success was 100 percent dependent on Porter having a career-best performance and he was basically a no-show. He missed most of the season with a foot injury and didn't contribute much when he did play.
And Porter is back for another season at $28 million. Realistically, Karnisovas is looking at 2021 as his first chance to shake up the roster.
"Ultimately, my responsibility is to move this organization on a trajectory of success," Karnisovas said. "And it's been apparent from the beginning that this involves making changes. I respectfully acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all of those in this organization who have come before me. But I'm dedicated and committed to cultivating a culture that creates winning and has its sights set on championships."
Boylen wraps up his Bulls tenure with a 39-84 record in two less-than-complete seasons. To say he was unpopular with the fan base is an understatement.
Boylen at least deserves some credit for turning the Bulls into a top-five defensive team, up until Carter's ankle injury in early January; for bringing White's raw skills along slowly until he was able to unleash three straight 30-point games; and getting the most out of Kris Dunn after management was ready to trade him.
"I was not looking at the (fan) perception. I was doing my due diligence during the last five months," Karnisovas said. "And I looked into a lot of factors and that's what the decision included.
"The signal is that we're changing things. It signals that we're looking forward to what comes next. We just felt this program needed a change and needed a change now. And I can't wait to find the next coach for this group."