It was important for the Bulls to make sure there was no title of “interim’’ anywhere near Jim Boylen’s name on Monday.
With Fred Hoiberg fired, the organization wasted no time in a long drawn-out coaching search, instead promoting Boylen from associate head coach, and seemingly all in on moving forward with the long-time assistant.
“Jim is our head coach and we expect him to be our head coach going forward, and we’re going to give him every opportunity to succeed here,’’ VP of basketball John Paxson said.
Paxson was then asked if they expect Boylen to be the head coach next season, and flat-out doubled-downed.
“Yeah, we want Jim to be our head coach next season,’’ Paxson said.
Boylen, who was hired to the staff back on June 17, 2015, takes over Hoiberg’s seat with 33 years of coaching experience, including 20 years in the NBA.
He served as an assistant coach with Houston, Golden State, Milwaukee, Indiana and San Antonio, as well as coaching under both Jud Heathcote and Tom Izzo at Michigan State, as well as the head coach at the University of Utah.
The feeling from the Bulls is that Boylen has a strong voice with the players and more passion, and has even shown that in a confrontational manner, having several heated discussions with former players, including a towel-throwing incident with Rajon Rondo.
The promotion also comes with a few red flags, however, with the first coming on-the-court with the defense the Bulls have been playing. It’s progressively gotten worse, so much so that organization actually wanted Boylen to have a more consistent concept going into this season.
The other red flag is off-the-court where several sources told the Sun-Times that Boylen always wanted a head coaching job, and was not shy about it. His growing closeness with Forman over the past few seasons was concerning for several former players, and merits watching.
He was asked about that on Monday, and the optics of how it looked, especially when he talked about his closeness with Hoiberg, but admitted that he found out Sunday night, but Hoiberg didn’t know until he showed up for practice Monday morning.
“The perception may be there, but I’ve proven every day on this practice floor with this team my loyalty and devotion to Fred,’’ Boylen said. “And I busted my hump for him – rightfully so, that’s my job as his soldier in this thing. So, from my summers going to Finland, to going to see [Kris] Dunn, to traveling to California to spend two weeks with Jimmy Butler in our first couple years – whatever it is, I was going to do to help Fred be successful. And he knows that.’’
Just in case the Bulls do move on from Jim Boylen after this season, here are three candidates to keep an eye on:
1. Monty Williams – There have been whispers about Williams since the summer, and he does have that same Notre Dame DNA as Paxson. Now serving as an assistant in Philadelphia, Williams is considered a players’ coach, but also a disciplinarian. When he was part of the Team USA staff, the star players raved about his abilities to communicate with them on many levels.
2. Jay Wright – If the Bulls decide to go the college route again, Wright should top their list. A two-time NCAA Champion at Villanova, Wright is hard-nosed and gets the most out of his players. Maybe the perfect fit for Year 3 of the rebuild.
3. Becky Hammon – Board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf loves diversity and also giving proven assistants a chance. Would Reinsdorf be the one to break the barrier and have the first female NBA head coach – Summer League not included?
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