Chicago Bulls in turmoil: A Tale of Two Cities

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With the firing of Fred Hoiberg and hiring of Jim Boylen, the Chicago Bulls are at a divisive and contentious crossroads.

While you could argue it isn’t the worst of times, it certainly isn’t the best right now for the Chicago Bulls… and yet, this is definitely a tale of two cities.

Jim Boylen took the reins as head coach of the Bulls last week after Fred Hoiberg was fired near the beginning of his fourth season with the team.

For Boylen, this is an important period in which he will establish himself and the staunch differences in his style and methods. It’s a time to be strict, maybe even too strict — like calling a three-hour practice the day after a back-to-back set. That’s Boylen’s world right now.

But for this very young Chicago Bulls roster, this is turmoil. A man who slid over on the bench is now calling the shots, and has a wildly different approach from the lax Fred Hoiberg. Do the Bulls fall in line? Well, if you think calling the National Basketball Players Association on their new skipper is falling in line, then sure.

Truthfully, after Boylen yanked the starters in the final 21 minutes of Saturday’s historic 56-point blowout loss against the Boston Celtics, he was kind of asking for trouble.

As we learned from Hoiberg, this is not college ball. Despite their incredibly young ages, and their incredibly poor record, these are still high-powered employees of the Chicago Bulls organization, and of the National Basketball Association. They are grown men in the eyes of society, some with guaranteed contracts, and Boylen’s extreme tactics aren’t going to work in this case.

While the Bulls found that Boylen can indeed call a three-plus hour, military-style practice the day after a back-to-back set, the alternative is still widely understood and implicit protocol.

After 15 years as an associate coach of the Houston Rockets, including the back-to-back NBA champions of the Hakeem Olajuwon era, Boylen does indeed have the experience needed to at least think he deserves to behave in this fashion.

But as his players rightly put it, he isn’t Gregg Popovich.

The bottom line is that if Boylen wants to be a head coach at the NBA level, he’s going to have to be a bit more debonair with the youth and with his optics to the rest of the league.

Although he may have even directly molded talent during his Houston and Chicago tenures as a peripheral coach, the leadership element is a massive jump for Boylen, and he is showing his inexperience in that sense. But he isn’t the only inexperienced person in that locker room.

Outside of Robin Lopez (10 years experience) and Justin Holiday (five years), the most tenured player on this roster is Zach LaVine … and he is 22 years old.

Other near-teenagers on the roster, such as Kris Dunn, Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis, are as young and inevitably stubborn. They have no leadership experience outside of Dunn playing four years at Providence College.

It’s not like Boylen has to be David Fizdale, who is endearing himself to the young New York Knicks by coming down to their level, letting them take turns playing hero ball, and occasionally doing a ceremonial benching.

Jim Boylen is 53 years old and has been a key part of decades of cultured basketball. And while Fizdale is just 43 years old, he has the leash to do as he pleases because he has been a head coach before, and quite successfully, for the Memphis Grizzlies.

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The bottom line is that until Boylen wins these guys over, he will for sure remain on the hot seat as the Bulls currently sit at the second-worst record in the league, just ahead of the Phoenix Suns. Yikes.