The longer Jim Boylen remains head coach of the Chicago Bulls, the more eager I am for an explanation. But thanks to the extended offseason and Karnisovas’ naturally discrete, deliberate process, chances are we won’t get a satisfying one anytime soon.
For that reason, I’m stuck trying to come up with possible explanations on my own. The most likely outcome is the Bulls’ lack of practice time and mandatory team activities have made it hard for Karnisovas to feel like he’s evaluated the coaching staff fully. We then have less likely reasons, such as Reinsdorf forcing Karnisovas to keep Boylen (it continues to be reported that the new front office has full autonomy) or Karnisovas waiting for more teams to finish their seasons so he can have easier access to possible head coach candidates (the Knicks are going through a massive coaching search right now, so this doesn’t feel probable).
Another idea that popped into my head recently though is Karnisovas’ possible interest in the Bulls current assistant coaching staff. I’ll preface this by saying that this could also be filed with the “less likely” explanations, but I still think it’s worth discussing.
In NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson’s latest mailbag, he reminded folks that several of the Bulls current assistants already have some kind of relationship with Karnisovas.
Check it out:
But I do think one thing being lost in talk about Boylen being one of the league’s lowest-paid coaches is that he also just hired a new staff. Chris Fleming and Roy Rogers just finished the first season of their three-year deals.
I’m not saying such contracts and considerations are deal breakers in the big picture, particularly for a franchise that prints money. But Karnisovas has a comfort level with Fleming, with whom he worked in Denver. He has also crossed paths with assistant coach Dean Cooper, who was in Houston when Karnisovas arrived there. And don’t forget that Karnisovas picked up the option of assistant coach Nate Loenser.
Concerning the first point, I’ll again scream at the top of my lungs *ahem* MONEY SHOULDN’T MATTER. Even with the Bulls assistant coaches, their contracts shouldn’t be a barrier between a completely new coaching staff, if that’s what Karnisovas wants.
Now, the latter point Johnson makes is what could prove interesting. Karnisovas already has some kind of prior experience with assistants Chris Fleming and Dean Cooper. Additionally, he felt strong enough about Nate Loenser to keep him aboard past this season. If he already believes the Bulls have three adequate coaching staff members, could that play a role in his hesitance to fire Boylen?
I mean, after all, Boylen is the one who put this coaching staff together. And if Karnisovas wants these three to have their voices heard more, then he could (theoretically) ask Boylen to work much more closely with each of them. We also don’t know what the players said about the assistants on staff. If the players bashed Boylen and praised others, that could put Karnisovas in a bit of a confusing place. Perhaps he believes there’s still a way to salvage what’s already here.
The only way he could confirm or deny that belief though would be watching his new team in action. The Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley recently shared a quote from Karnisovas where the front office leader expressed the importance of exactly that:
“It’s very hard,’’ Karnisovas said last month, when asked about the difficulty in listening to what the players said about Boylen and making sure it wasn’t agenda-driven. “Like I said, I need to be there. I need to see it for myself. As much as I could talk to players and their experiences previously, I’m looking forward and they’re looking forward to changes and improvements.
How long until Karnisovas sees this for himself? Could it stretch into next season since? I mean, as of now, that’s when the team is expected to all be back together.
Anyway, at the end of the day, if Karnisovas likes certain pieces of this coaching staff, he could keep them around. While typically a new front office will completely overhaul the staff and then allow the new head coach hire to fill out his bench, that isn’t the only way to do it. And, like I said, this entire point should probably be filed under the “less likely” category (as it pertains to this front office’s hesitation to fire Boylen), but as some of these assistants continue to get praise, this feels like a general topic worth keeping in mind.