Believe it or not, the Chicago Bulls could have someone poached from their coaching staff.
According to The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov, the New York Knicks are expected to speak with Bulls lead assistant Chris Fleming about their open head coach position. Fleming joins a growing list of candidates, which already includes (but is not limited to) former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, 76ers assistant Ime Udoka, and Magic assistant Pat Danley.
Considering the Bulls underwhelming and hair-loss inducing season, I know it’s hard to imagine anyone looking at this coaching staff with a shopping list. But Fleming has long been considered one of the better basketball minds in the NBA. The move to sign him this offseason certainly came with praise, and I doubt many in league circles hold the Bulls 22-43 record against him.
In fact, according to the Sun-Times, Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley could look to keep Fleming around. With a coaching overhaul inevitably (hopefully?) on the horizon, Bulls assistants have reportedly been scavenging the market for other jobs since the end of the season – except for Fleming, who feels pretty safe under this new leadership.
We talked about this on May 12th, and here’s a nugget from that post:
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.
With his name now on the Knicks’ head coach list, the Bulls might move a little more eagerly to keep him in the Windy City. Not to mention, there is still reason to believe his offensive mind can mesh nicely with this current Bulls roster. Yes, I know the Bulls had the 2nd-worst offensive-rating in the NBA this season, but the blame lies more with Boylen than Fleming. And, indeed, the assistants apparently didn’t have much of an impact on the system the Bulls ran in the first place. So put simply, I’d like to see what kind of impact Fleming could make underneath a new head coach.
And, clearly, the Knicks new front office still believes the guy has what it takes to lead a team.
I also wonder how this could impact the Bulls coaching search, whenever that might begin. Perhaps this was always the plan, but I have to think Fleming is now in position to be more seriously considered for the expected vacancy in Chicago. Obviously, the overlapping timelines/Boylen’s on-going presence make that a little tricky, but it may be the only way to keep him around (which, again, I think is the goal). Obviously, he wouldn’t be the first assistant coach to interview for the top job elsewhere, before returning back to the bench as the first or second mate (if he didn’t get it), but it’s also isn’t fair to say nothing’s changed.
All I’m saying is, if the Bulls want him to stick around, it might be in their best interest to make him feel as wanted/valued as other organizations.
In any case, as a broader point, I think I’m a little jealous of the Knicks (a statement rarely uttered in public). The Bulls hesitation to begin their own coaching search and fire Jim Boylen becomes increasingly tedious. For the time being, I understand why it hasn’t happened yet, but the Bulls don’t want to sit on their hands as possible candidates get gobbled up and serviceable members of their own staff get ripped away.