We’ve watched the sunrise 71 times since the Chicago Bulls officially announced Arturas Karnisovas as their next vice president of basketball operations … and yet Jim Boylen is still the head coach. Though while I’d gladly stare into the sun 71 more long days if it meant Boylen was not at the helm of this team come the start of the 2020-21 season, I’ve certainly grown antsy. And I’m sure you have, too.
But don’t get me wrong. I understand (and even appreciate) the front office’s desire to evaluate everyone within the organization fairly and fully, while establishing a new precedent and external reputation for how this franchise treats its personnel, but … come on. Isn’t the writing on the wall for Jim Boylen? The answer, my friends, is a resounding “Yes.” Sooner or later, his time in Chicago will come to an end, and I don’t think it’ll be at the natural end of his extension.
So I suppose a better question, then, is what are the downsides to firing him today?
The players get what they clearly want, and the organization can start a coaching search in the early part of this extended Bulls offseason. Win-win, right? Well, yes, but there are still arguments against ripping off the band-aid (some more valid than others), and we may as well consider them. Or, at least, one of them: Money.
When discussing Boylen’s job status, the amount of money he’s owed comes up quite a bit. I’m sure you’ve noticed. And I’m sure you’re also aware how much the Bulls have paid their other coaches to not coach the Bulls in the recent past.
But while Boylen may have signed an extension last offseason, I REALLY don’t think that actually plays a role in this decision – at least, not a significant one. When compared to other coaches around the league, Boylen received … very little in his deal – relatively speaking.
Reporters close to the organization have always characterized Boylen as one of the lowest-paid head coaches in the NBA. And recently on 670 The Score’s Parkins & Spiegel, the Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley effectively confirmed as much:
“This would by far be the cheapest dead money. I mean, Jim wasn’t making that much as a head coach. Even with the extension, he was one of the lower-paid coaches in the association … You’re paying Jim maybe 1.6 at the most, with incentive 1.7. That’s ashtray money for Jerry Reinsdorf.”
I’m not sure we can call any money “ashtray money” for Jerry Resindorf – the guy who loves a good “cash considerations” deal – but, all things considered, that’s pretty close to nothing in today’s league. If you remember, the Bulls had to pay Fred Hoiberg $5 million a year for his services after letting him go early. Certainly, one could argue that the Bulls are saving money every single day they do not fire Boylen and hire (pay) his replacement – in extremely uncertain financial times, no less – but in total dollars, there just isn’t enough there to steer a decision. Or at least, there shouldn’t be.
Additionally, when the Bulls look to hire a new head coach, they could very well end up spending a lot less than they had expected. The recent league shutdown will surely have some kind of impact on salaries at all levels, including head coach. Of course, that cuts both ways, as revenues are going to be severely impacted, perhaps especially so for a team like the Bulls who will not be participating in Orlando.
But when all is said and done, money should not be a problem. Not with a decision this critical. Not when the Bulls have gotten it wrong so many times before. Even if the team wants to pinch pennies during these uncertain times, they can afford to let Boylen walk, and I still fully expect they will.