Earlier today, Sun-Times reporter Joe Cowley hopped on 670 The Score to discuss the Bulls’ current coaching situation with Dan Bernstein. During their conversation, he said the new front office’s decision on Boylen’s future is all but made, and it’s now only a matter of time before he’s looking for a new job.
In fact, he even mentioned that several members of the coaching staff are already on the hunt for a new gig (with the exception of assistant coach Chris Fleming, who could yet make it out of this organizational transition alive), further signaling the belief that Boylen’s time is up.
Check it out (emphasis mine):
“I think once the NBA officially makes its decision, then the front office will make the decision and from what I’m hearing the decision is going to be that they’re moving on from Jim Boylen and the coaching staff,” Cowley told Dan Bernstein on 670 The Score. “And there’s members of the coaching staff right now that feel that way because there are a couple that I know personally that have already checked out or are already looking on other jobs … so they kind of feel the decision is made.”
As Cowley has pointed out before, Jim Boylen still feels confident about his potential to return next season, but obviously things can’t be that promising if the rest of the staff is already sending out feelers on new jobs.
And as for Fleming possibly sticking around, I’ll say only that it makes some sense. Fleming is a pretty universally respected assistant coach who also crossed paths with Arturas Karnisovas while they worked with the Denver Nuggets back in 2015. Not to mention, the duo has their fair share of connections in the European basketball world, as Fleming served as head coach of the German International Basketball Team from 2014-2017. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing him stick around. Fleming received quite a bit of praise for the work he did with the Brooklyn Nets offense during the 2018-19 season, and according to Cowley and Bernstein, didn’t get a chance to leave his mark on this Bulls team.
In fact, Bernstein said he heard Fleming purposefully stayed out of the this year, especially when he noticed Boylen wasn’t going to be the answer this team needed:
“Fleming was keeping his powder dry regarding how actively he contributed as an in-game assistant where it would take a village to steer Jim Boylen to keep him on the road essentially in a game … and Fleming chose to not do that. One, because it would be nearly impossible, and two, because it’s one of these things where sometimes you’re better off just letting a guy show who he is and that might be better for your long term future.”
Hmm. Okay. I suppose this is plausible. Although, in my opinion, it’s a little hard to believe, since Fleming was the one who chose to work with this organization over the offseason in the first place. I mean, why board a ship if you knew it was going to sink?
While Cowley didn’t necessarily confirm as much, he did say that there is some truth to Bernstein’s comments, adding: “You had a coaching staff, an assistant coaching staff, that immediately knew at the beginning of the season that any sets they that like, any philosophy that they like are not going to be heard. That they are going to stick to this offense that is based on the analytics. Even if they like something or don’t like something, it doesn’t matter. The keys to the car were handed over to the analytics department and Jim was going to carry out fully what the analytics department deemed the smart offense to run.”
Which, okay … I have a couple of thoughts on that.
First of all, this is very frustrating. Fleming, who was brought in for his offensive wisdom, didn’t even have a chance to implement his own system. Instead, Boylen and the Bulls opted to blindly follow the “analytics department,” one we’ve come to learn barely existed. Sure, we knew the Bulls had assistant GM Steve Weinman looking into the data, but Zach LaVine didn’t even perceive that work as the organization having an analytics department (“we don’t even have an analytics department, that’s the thing” – LaVine on the Lowe Post Podcast back in October).
Indeed, the Bulls have been known for having one of the smallest front offices in the NBA, so it’s just crazy to think they’d rely on their tiny, make-shift analytics department over their own coaches for a preferred style of play.
Second of all, so this is why Boylen kept talking about the shot profile all season long and didn’t want to change anything. These assistants could have very well known how to create a system that better suited the players (which, ya know, is a coach’s job), but Boylen didn’t care about that. He cared what the data had to say, not what his assistants/players had to say. And as anyone who knows us can attest, we are obviously all in favor of advanced analytics, but they must be applied with some semblance of reason. There is not a worthy single executive – in any major sport – that would tell you to follow data blindly. It’s simply not how it’s done.
Ultimately, this is why Karnisovas and Eversley need to find the Bulls a new head coach – Boylen lost (1) games, (2) his locker room, and (3) the people he hired in the length of about just one season.
That’s some impressively bad coaching.