It Sure Feels Nice to Have Billy Donovan Right About Now (and Other Bulls Bullets)

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It Sure Feels Nice to Have Billy Donovan Right About Now (and Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

Man, having a head coach you like and trust feels pretty damn nice.

Thanks for reminding me of that, BN Bears! 

•   With Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan wearing Bulls gear this season, Zach LaVine winning a gold medal, Patrick Williams showing offensive improvements in Summer League, and Alex Caruso re-igniting our love for headbands, it can be hard to forget that the first big free-agent addition to the Chicago Bulls roster happened on September 22nd, 2020. Head coach Billy Donovan decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder as the franchise moved toward full rebuild mode. One of the best free-agent head coaches on the market, Donovan was driving back to Florida when Arturas Karnisovas picked up the phone. Not only did the announcement officially mark the end of the head coach who shall not be named, but it brought one of the more respected, player-centric coaches to an organization that desperately needed a reputation boost.

•   The decision immediately showed fans that this front office was serious about two things: Establishing a player-first environment and winning. A highly-regarded college coach, Donovan was one of the few talents to migrate to the professional game and continue his strong ability to connect with players. While he was gifted plenty of Hall of Fame talent while in Oklahoma City, there is no denying he did a tremendous job keeping that team focused and developing immediate mutual respect (after all, you don’t just get to the NBA Finals in Year 1 without that). Between James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Chris Paul, Donovan knows what it’s like to mix-and-match high-usage All-Star-caliber talent. And, in hindsight, I have to imagine that is part of the reason why this front office aggressively pursued him from the jump. They knew they wanted to reconstruct this roster into a winning product sooner than later.

•   Winning is pretty much all Donovan has done in his basketball career. After carrying a ridiculous 70.9 percent win percentage over his 21-year college coaching career, Donovan stepped into the NBA and didn’t miss a beat. Sure, there can be some criticism about the fact that his teams failed to make it out of the first round after his first-year trip to the Finals, but a 60.8 win percentage in five seasons in the Western Conference is nothing to snooze on, especially considering the organization’s star-power turnover. Donovan helped build the expectation of competitive consistency, and that is exactly what this Bulls organization needs as it steps into a new era. I anticipate Year 2 will be when we really see the Donovan addition begin to pay off.

•   How fun is it that the Bulls and Knicks are both playoff-level teams again? These two organizations have not both been top-8 in the Eastern Conference since the 2012-13 season. Any kind of rivalry between the two has been put on a long hold, but there is a real chance for something to brew this upcoming season. After all, the Bulls’ former head coach and MVP will be sitting on the other sideline. While it’s always nice to give those two their props (particularly Derrick Rose), I’m sure that is not going to change any sense of urgency among the fanbase to surpass them on the East totem pole.

•   Speaking of which, the first time the Bulls and Knicks will meet is on October 28th. The early regular-season matchup will also be the same night Joakim Noah is honored for his retirement at a surely sold-out United Center. With so many past and present Bulls in the building, there could not be a better opportunity to give the Bulls legend a round of applause. And, I forgot to mention this in our initial write-up on the event, but let’s remember Donovan is also Noah’s old college coach, so two of the most important head coaches in his life will be in attendance.

•   BRB, I got some things to buy.

•   Zach LaVine will be doing plenty of this over the next few months.

•   We had a busy Friday last week, so I’ll drop a few links below in case you missed anything.

•   Is Fields time here to stay?

•   The Blackhawks might get just one season out of the All-Star goalie. Make the most of it!

•   Smart man.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.