Thanks to the numbers that fill each box score, we can breakdown a player’s performances for hours. Put all those numbers together and we can breakdown their entire season for longer. Take one step further, and you can discuss a career for a lifetime (shoutout MJ).
Numbers aren’t everything, but they help tell a story. And, man, do I wish it worked the same way for coaches. Sure, you can look at how many wins a coach has to decipher how successful they are, but how do you fairly assess somebody coming in with a limited a track record?
A question in The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry’s most recent mailbag had me thinking about coaching aspect of the game. To summarize, the question asked about where Head Coach Jim Boylen would take a step forward, how an offseason hire such as Chris Fleming will help the Bulls’ offense, and which players would benefit from a new scheme.
Here was Mayberry’s response:
I’d really like to see Boylen let these guys run more. That alone could make a huge difference. But the defense has to improve to the point the Bulls give themselves run-out opportunities.
The usual suspects will flourish no matter what. That’s just the way of the league. LaVine, Markkanen and Porter will get the bulk of the shots, and everyone else will fall in line. My question is what will a revamped system do for the others? What will the coaching do for the Carters and Gaffords, Valentines and Hutchisons, Whites and Satoranskys? As much as the Bulls need their heavy hitters to have huge seasons, they’ll also need some help. That’s the point of having a reliable system. It’s not the stars who need it most. It’s the role players.
That layered question received a complex response, but no hard answers. Then again, we won’t get those until games start getting played. But it got me to thinking about the reputations coaches build and how staffs are put together.
The idea of managing a reliable, consistent system seems to be the most valid indications of good coaching, and I guess that’s why organizations oftentimes seek experienced head coaches who have a proven system. But none of the past four Bulls head coaches (Vinny Del Negro, Tom Thibodeau, Fred Hoiberg, and now, Boylen) had professional head-coaching experience before grabbing the Bulls by their horns. And while Boylen was a tenured NBA assistant with some college head-coaching experience, we really don’t have a firm grasp on how to properly assess who he is, how he built his staff, or how their presence gets the Bulls closer to a championship.
What we think the Bulls have in Boylen is a “grit and soul” coach who connects with players and has surrounded himself with assistants (i.e. Fleming and Roy Rogers) that can focus more on the scheme. This could work with a squad because young teams probably need the head coach to be just as much of a people person as he is a basketball savant. Boylen should know how that works and what it looks like having first-hand coaching experience with Greg Popovich.
We recently got a better idea of what Boylen’s really all about with his jet-setting ways, but we still don’t know who he is yet. Establishing an identity is a challenge, but I know harking character and tenacity isn’t an identity. It’s probably more of a gimmick than anything.
But much like Boylen’s players, a major opportunity to show us all what he’s really capable of is on the horizon this season.
Your move, coach.
Luis Medina contributed to this post