The elephant in the room is tall, bald and gritty.
Heading into the 2019-20 season, plenty of question marks surround the Chicago Bulls, but the biggest looms over the head of new first-year head coach Jim Boylen.
It’s hard to imagine that a head coach whose first experience at the helm of his team sparked a player mutiny received a three-year contract extension at the beginning of this offseason. Although, the Bulls and Boylen have appeared to come a long way since then, something people may not yet realize.
By no means is Boylen worthy of any on-court credit yet; after all, we still don’t know if he can coach a winning team. But he has gone out of his way this offseason to build a relationship with his players, even if that means literally traveling across the world to do so.
But I’ll be the first to admit it: Boylen is a hard guy to like. He talks with the vernacular of a college basketball head coach, and not a power-5 one at that. He praises “toughness” and has an edge to him that comes off as cocky more then sincere. If you don’t believe me, just read the Sun-Times latest article where Boylen discusses the addition of Tomas Satoransky.
He throws Jabari Parker under the bus and seems to praise a playing-while-hurt mentality. Truly, I think he means well when discussing all of these points (and he isn’t necessarily wrong under certain circumstances), I just believe he can probably say a lot of this stuff more clearly. For that reason, I still feel like we don’t really know who Jim Boylen is.
On one hand, he preaches soul and character, but on the other, he’s a basketball nut. Rookie point guard Coby White said he was sold on his new head coach after he came prepared with film at the first individual meeting between the two. While the Sun-Times article had its fair share of obscure quotes, it also demonstrated this side of Boylen. A smart side. And that sort of sparked this post/question today … Is Jim Boylen … Actually Good?
The Chicago Bulls just put together, arguably, it’s best and most complete-offseason under the Gar Forman and John Paxson regime. And it’s now fair to ask, how much credit should we give Jim Boylen?
If anything, we have no reason to believe this is GarPax’s doing; history says otherwise. Rumors about readjustments in the front office have lingered, but no bigger change was made internally this offseason than the change at head coach.
Boylen pretty clearly played a large role in this new, better direction of the Bulls – and I don’t think it should be overlooked. Just read what he told the Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley:
“When I presented to ownership and management on [April 24], and we’ve talked about this, but we needed to bring in the right kind of guys that can start or not start but help us win … Of course, everybody wants to start, but we all know that the best NBA teams, it’s eight or nine guys, 10 guys that can play.
‘‘So in my conversation with [vice president of basketball operations John Paxson] and [general manager Gar Forman], it was about what kind of character we can bring in that can still play, that can help us win because what we’ve needed is durability and availability. We haven’t had that.”
Satoransky and Thaddeus Young fit exactly what Boylen’s talking about. Otto Porter Jr. also happens to fit that mold, a player the team acquired in February before proceeding to go 7-5 that month (this was also, arguably, the team’s best transaction in quite some time).
Also, for all you folks that were worried about Boylen’s emphasis on the half-court and pounding the paint (Aka: old school NBA), he apparently was thinking modern all along. In fact, that’s why Boylen targeted Satoransky: “We’re putting in a running game, and we’re going to run more. Sometimes guys have the excuse of, ‘Well, I’m not going to run out because no one is going to throw it to me.’ Well, this [expletive] guy is going to throw it ahead. He fills a lot of boxes for me.’’
Think about it, the additions of Porter, Young and Satoransky are all on Boylen’s resume before his first full season as a head coach, and all happen to be uncharacteristically good moves. Heck, even the draft with Coby White and Daniel Gafford was heavily praised (though the Bulls have done a decent job drafting over the past couple years).
The task at hand now is to see if Boylen can coach all of these new pieces, but acquiring them is the first step. All I’m saying is, if you discount his first impression, shockingly, Boylen’s off to a solid start.