Yesterday, word dropped that new VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas was taking the Bulls training staff in a different direction next season, allowing the contract of head athletic trainer Jeff Tanaka to expire. It’s not exactly like firing him, but the result is the same. And given the Bulls injury woes over the past … ever … it was a move widely accepted.
But today, in a sign that not everything about the organization was broken before he got here, Karnisovas locked up one of his assistant head coaches for another year:
Arturas Karnisovas has picked up 2020-21 option on assistant coach Nate Loenser's contract, per sources.
Loenser, originally hired in 2015 by Fred Hoiberg as a video coordinator, is widely respected by players and also served as head coach of Windy City Bulls in 2016-17.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) May 21, 2020
As Johnson points out above, Nate Loesner was originally hired by Fred Hoiberg as a video coordinator back in 2015, before serving as the head coach of the Windy City Bulls in the G-League the following year. Loenser then joined the Bulls bench as an assistant coach in 2017, and will remain there at least through next season.
This did give me some initial pause, though.
The fact remains that head coach Jim Boylen’s time in Chicago is likely soon coming to an end. And usually, a new coach is given some freedom in picking his own staff. With that said, that’s certainly not a right, and of course, Karnisovas may like Loenser enough to settle that case himself right now anyway (indeed, he’s a very well respected coach, so it’s really not all that surprising). Indeed, holding onto good assistant coaches through times of transition is a very valuable practice, and Karnisovas may have just ensured that some semblance of institutional knowledge will be there for the next guy. That’s important, too.
Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Karnisovas saw Loenser as holding some real player development value. With this being a clear area of focus for this new front office, Loenser’s past experience as a G-League and Summer League head coach could be seen as quite the perk. He has plenty of experience working with young players, and I think Karnisovas might view him as a nice asset for this area of the organization.
Ultimately, this is all just part of the organizational overhaul, which, as we’ve now learned, does not necessarily mean “everything must go!”
Stay tuned for more.