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Examining Jim Boylen, the Chicago Bulls' New Head Coach

Updated on March 21, 2019

Jim Boylen has officially been named the permanent head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Boylen, who has been with the team since 2015, was promoted after the Bulls fired former head coach Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg led the Bulls to a 5-19 record to start the season, the third worst in the NBA. I’m sure Chicago is tempted by the talent-filled draft class that’s coming up, but something tells me the Bulls will shape up and start winning more games under Boylen.

One of the hardest working guys I've been around

— Rudy Tamjanovich, Rockets Head Coach 92-2003, 2x Champion

In the interest of fairness, Hoiberg was missing arguably three of his best players (Markkanen, Dunn, and Portis) during most of that 5-19 start. As the news broke, reporters began to scatter over the Bulls practice facility and question everyone with a pulse. It’d be hard to find anyone in the Bulls organization with anything bad to say about Hoiberg.


This is Boylen’s first NBA head coaching job, but he has been bouncing from the NBA to NCAA since 1987. Boylen was a 2-time NBA Champion with the Houston Rockets under Rudy Tomjanovich and won another championship with Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. Boylen was also an assistant for Tom Izzo at Michigan State where he was a part of a trip to the final four in 2005. Boylen also served as head coach at the University of Utah and posted a 69-60 record. Boylen has a couple of legendary coaches on his side and we will discuss that below, but first let’s review the press conference that announced Boylen as the new permanent head coach of the Chicago Bulls.

Jim Boylen and Gregg Popovich coaching the San Antonio Spurs
Jim Boylen and Gregg Popovich coaching the San Antonio Spurs

Press Conference: Explaining the Decision

Although the Bulls had struggled at the beginning of the year, most people were surprised to see Hoiberg fired only 24 games into the season, especially considering the team is riddled with injuries. After hearing from Chicago’s executives, it’s obvious they saw an issue with the energy around the team. President of Basketball Operations John Paxson explained that the organization felt the issue wasn’t as simple as injured players and that they needed to make a change to a more passionate, high energy leader. Paxson went on to emphasize Boylen’s passion for the game and how it can spread throughout a team. Paxson also made a point to explain how they view Boylen as a “teacher of the game” and can really nail down some fundamental aspects of playing in the NBA. The combination of the ability to teach and the ability to raise the energy level can have a huge impact on the game. The Bulls’ front office must really believe in Boylen to make this switch, now let’s hear what the man had to say.

Press Conference: Boylen Speaks

Jim Boylen had many encouraging answers to the various questions he was peppered with on Monday. The phrase that stood out most from Boylen’s press conference was that he hopes they can “own the ‘Bulls’ across our chest better.” Boylen went on to explain how being a member of the Chicago Bulls organization, you have a lot to play for. This mentality will resonate with Dunn and Portis in particular, they play with an obvious passion for competition. The combination of these expressive guys and a high energy coach like Boylen will uplift the mentality and competitive spirit of the overall team. My favorite quote from Boylen so far was “You have got to put your handprint on it and make it yours.” I like this so much because the Bulls have tons of young talent, but they need a coach who will take charge and set a direction for the franchise. They need a coach who has to knowledge to boost players’ potential and the mentality to push them to achieve that potential. They need Boylen to shape this team and tweak the mindsets of each player to re-build the championship culture in Chicago.

Boylen leading a Bulls practice
Boylen leading a Bulls practice

Boylen also stated how he felt he was “The guy” for the job. This confidence is encouraging and much needed considering the team’s 5-19 record. Boylen went on to explain how he felt nobody had a better perspective on the team than him including knowing; where they are, where they came from and where they need to go. He would then go on to say he would take all the knowledge and experience from the various people and teams he’s been with and use all of that to make a better team and build a culture. Boylen has been there since 2015. This means he has seen the different paths that led each player to the Bulls and seen what they have done since joining the team. The Bulls are the third youngest team, which makes culture very important. The right culture will help these players reach potential nobody knew they had and the wrong culture can cripple even the most talented players. I believe Boylen’s past experiences will be very helpful in building this new culture.

Kind Words From Tamjanovich and Popovich

Boylen spent 11 years in Houston and won two NBA Championships with the Rockets. Their head coach was Rudy Tomjanovich, who had nothing but kind words for Boylen. Tomjanovich described Boylen as “one of the hardest-working guys I’ve been around.” This compliment is so encouraging because Tomjanovich has coached players like Hakeem Olajuwon and Kobe Bryant. Tomjanovich also led the US Men’s Basketball team to a gold medal at the Sydney Games in 2000. Tomjanovich also explained how Boylen’s ability to teach the game allows players to connect with him easier. He said Boylen has the feel of “a supportive ally in the trenches next to you.” Coach Popovich also spoke fondly of his time with Boylen, emphasizing Boylen’s character and loyalty.

Changes to Be Expected

From an Xs and Os perspective; Boylen looks to the young big men as the cornerstones of the franchise. Lauri Markkanen, 21 years old, and Wendell Carter Jr., 19 Years old have both shown tons of potential. Boylen says he looks to run more of the offense through them, which is no coincidence considering he was a part of the coaching staff that took these two lottery draft picks. Markkanen and Carter Jr. have both showed versatility; they can play inside or outside, high/low on the post, they can both be facilitators and scorers. This group has a long way to go, but they are young and have plenty of time.


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