Rozner: Professional Donovan adds to Chicago Bulls' credibility

  • FILE - In this March 8, 2020, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan watches during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston. The Chicago Bulls hired Donovan as coach Tuesday, Sept. 22. The 55-year-old Donovan spent the last five seasons with the Thunder. He replaces Jim Boylen, who was fired after the Bulls finished 22-43 and were one of the eight teams that didn't qualify for the NBA's restart at Walt Disney World.

    FILE - In this March 8, 2020, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan watches during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston. The Chicago Bulls hired Donovan as coach Tuesday, Sept. 22. The 55-year-old Donovan spent the last five seasons with the Thunder. He replaces Jim Boylen, who was fired after the Bulls finished 22-43 and were one of the eight teams that didn't qualify for the NBA's restart at Walt Disney World.

 
 
Updated 9/22/2020 7:58 PM

You look for signs.

Both big and small, you look for signs of professionalism from an organization, especially one like the Bulls that has been wandering in the desert for most of the last two decades, since Phil Jackson walked away and took a dynasty with him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Bulls have struggled not only to appear professional, but also to act professionally, to stay relevant in a rabid sports city, the last few years a bad comedy act that most had no interesting in viewing.

So it is less surprising than it is comforting that new Bulls boss Arturas Karnisovas went after the best coach available and secured the services of Billy Donovan on Tuesday, less than 10 days after Donovan split with Oklahoma City.

Call it a firing, call it a resignation, call it whatever you want, but the Thunder are starting over and chose not to give Donovan a new deal after his contract expired, though Donovan had also indicated he was not interested in a rebuild.

Welcome to Chicago, where the Bulls remain very much a work in progress.

More than that, in the years since Michael Jordan left town the Bulls have been more laughingstock than contender, and what you hope to see now is a professional organization with a plan and a legitimate head coach.

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Bill Donovan is just that.

Given the history, it's entirely possible that Donovan will lose his mind like so many coaches before him in Chicago, but you have the right to hope that with so much of the bad management out of the picture, the Bulls will allow Donovan to maintain his sanity.

Now on their 10th coach in 20 years, last on the list was Jim Boylen, who confused players with a system they didn't understand and roles that were uncertain.

This is a players' league and is becoming more so every day, so the ability to communicate and satisfy is crucial.

Before Boylen was Fred Hoiberg, whose chief function was being someone other than Tom Thibodeau.

Hoiberg had his legs chopped out from under him the day Jimmy Butler said Hoiberg had to coach harder. That was two months into his first season. Yeah, so long and good luck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Thibodeau was an excellent tactician and teacher, taking nondescript players and turning them into good or even great NBA players, but he also took stars and played them into the ground.

That led to confrontations with GM John Paxson, who had enough fights with his coaches that you tend to lose track. Thibodeau also has a history of being unable to work and play well with others.

Before him, there was the forgettable tenure of Vinny Del Negro, who went 41-41. Twice. So appropriate.

Paxson and Del Negro had a physical confrontation over the minutes limit of Joakim Noah, also not the only time in the last decade that Paxson was angry about an injured player being on the floor too long. Thibodeau was among those running a fool's errand for management.

There was the tyrant, Scott Skiles, fired on Christmas Eve, six years to the day that Tim Floyd was gifted his release from Bulls prison.

Skiles was overpaid and the Bulls underperformed in his 1950s-style offense. He worked to restore dignity to the organization, and did that well, but he always has a short shelf life. Skiles was unbending in what he wanted and eventually the players rebelled.

It was inevitable.

So many coaches, so many mutinies, so many lost playoff series.

We'll not remind you of the Floyd and Bill Cartwright eras, except to say that they had no chance with those teams, and they are not as guilty as some of the above, who lost their minds amid the circus that has been the Bulls -- though Floyd was frequently teetering on the edge.

Since 1998, when the Beatles of basketball left town, the Bulls have been to the conference finals once and been victorious in five playoff series.

Yes, five playoff series wins in 22 years.

A solid coach is a promise of nothing. You need stars, and that's up to Karnisovas. Unless he finds them, or encourages them to play in Chicago, the rest of it doesn't much matter.

But when you're a clown show, getting stars to join the three rings isn't going to happen. They want to see a plan in place and professionals on board.

Billy Donovan is certainly a good start.

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