As you know, legitimate updates on a plan to replace head coach Jim Boylen have proven few and far between over the past several weeks, and unfortunately, Jason Goff and K.C. Johnson’s conversation on the latest Bulls Talk Podcast (linked below) is more of the same. The key difference – and reason for this post – however, is the subtle hint we did receive from their discussion.
Brace yourself, Bulls fans, it’s a bit of a bumpy ride.
When asked to address the possibility of Boylen’s return next season, K.C. Johnson gave an answer we hoped to never hear.
“I actually would not be that surprised. I really wouldn’t be surprised either way, and I’m not trying to waffle or evade the question. Here’s why, here’s another thing that hasn’t been talked about that much, if you make a coaching change right now … you do that right away, you start the clock on you. And it seems like right now that Arturas and Marc are taking the long-play on everything right now. They want to survey this roster, they know they don’t have cap space until 2021. I think all these questions gain more clarity when we know what the 2021 NBA calendar is and what the salary cap is and all that stuff.
Okay, but how long is long? The end of the offseason, or the end of next season? Based on the comments above, Johnson believes the answer could be the latter – and that’s incredibly discouraging. And also just the beginning of our problem.
Later in the interview, we’re told that Karnisovas and Eversley still need to gather information to present ownership with a reason – or as Johnson put it “a thick dossier of reasons why” – to fire Boylen. Which begs some important questions, such as (1) If Karnisovas truly has full autonomy, why does he need such an extensive explanation, and to whom is he delivering it? And (2) Is a .317 winning percentage on top of several key players speaking out against Boylen seriously not enough of a reason?
And while were on it, I have a few more:
• Why does this front office believe it’s more advantageous to keep Boylen than start a coaching search now?
• Do Karnisovas and Eversley not believe an extended offseason can’t prove valuable to a new coach?
• Isn’t this supposed to be a player first organization now?
• If so, why aren’t the concerns of key players who “ripped” Boylen being met?
• And to that end, what further evidence is this front office still hoping to gather?
Goff, who also wouldn’t be shocked to see Boylen return next season, tells Bulls fans who want Boylen fired right now to ask themselves the following question – what’s next? And while I can understand the spirit of the question, that’s hardly the fan’s concern or responsibility. But even if it were, I think the answer is quite simple: Firing Jim Boylen now means putting Chris Fleming in the interim spot for any requisite offseason duties, as an official, thorough, and long-overdue coaching search begins.
Do I know exactly whom the Bulls next head coach should be? No. I have opinions. I can propose candidates. But I don’t have an answer …. because that’s what a coaching search is for. There are plenty of qualified candidates out there and the Bulls job may be more desirable moving forward than it has been in a decade. I truly don’t see what’s so difficult about any of this.
I like to think I’ve been relatively level-headed – patient, even – with the employment status and plans for Jim Boylen. I’ve expressed an understanding of why the process will take time and shown an appreciation for Arturas Karnisovas’ devotion to evaluation. But by now, Bulls fans should know how this front office views Boylen, lest we be left to consider their indecision and inaction as an indication of their intentions. And if that is the case, I think we deserve an explanation as to why everything we’ve seen from Boylen so far isn’t grounds for dismissal.
At the end of the day, I fear that Johnson and Goff are starting to prepare us for the reality that Boylen will be back next season. And while I don’t blame them for that – they’re just the messengers – it is a rather sobering message.
To end with a little glimmer of hope, I’ll say that I can still be convinced that the length it’s taken to make this decision so far isn’t necessarily a problem, if we end up where we need to be. But that won’t be the case forever – we’re wasting valuable time, here – and, as a fan, I still need a little more.
Listen to the full podcast below:
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.