The Bulls have put their faith in Jim Boylen, with the two sides agreeing to a contract extension.
Boylen stepped into the head coaching role Dec. 3 when the Bulls fired Fred Hoiberg after a 5-19 start. Bulls Executive VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson made clear that Hoiberg’s record had nothing to do with the change.
“This decision was not based on our record,” Paxson said at the time. “What we’re lacking is an energy and spirit about our team and we need to get that back. We need to find a spirit to our group that’s been missing and missing for quite some time.”
Paxson also had this to say about Hoiberg’s rough start:
“As a head coach, you have to demand excellence in your players. You have to be able to get your identity across to your team,” Paxson said. “We felt there were a lot of things that needed to be addressed and needed to be addressed immediately. It’s not as simple as saying we would’ve gotten that back with healthy players.”
Reading between the lines, Paxson and Bulls GM Gar Forman felt like Hoiberg wasn’t holding players accountable for their actions and was failing to develop them in the right environment.
While this type of assessment is hard to make for Bulls fans who lack daily insight into the inner workings of their favorite team, the move to Boylen meant that Chicago’s front office believed that their new coach was capable of guiding the franchise back to its winning ways.
So confident, in fact, that Boylen was not given the “interim” tag after replacing Hoiberg.
“Jim [Boylen] is our head coach and we expect him to be our head coach going forward, and we’re going to give him every opportunity to succeed here,” Paxson said. “He has a passion and an energy to him that I think our players will respond to.”
Chicago responded by finishing the season 22-60, meaning the team went 17-41 with Boylen at the helm.
Throw out the last seven games of the season, where the Bulls essentially rolled with their G League team due to injuries, and Boylen’s mark is 16-35. That’s a 31.3 percent winning percentage, better than Hoiberg’s 20.8 percentage.
Here’s an in-depth comparison of how the Bulls fared under both Hoiberg and Boylen. The sample sizes are different, but the numbers are very similar overall.
|Chicago’s Splits||W-L||Offensive Rating||League Rank||Defensive Rating||League Rank||Pace|
|Fred Hoiberg (24 games)||5-19||101.0||29th||110.6||22nd||100.94|
|Jim Boylen (58 games)||17-41||106.0||28th||113.7||27th||98.68|
With those stats, it’s fair for Bulls fans to wonder what Chicago’s front office saw during Boylen’s short tenure that made them want to reward the coach with a multi-year extension.
While Boylen’s contract for next season was rightfully made guaranteed, Chicago’s front office initially had the option to evaluate him over the entire 2019-20 season before making this long-term commitment to him.
Why not give the 54-year-old a full year in charge to see if he’s the perfect fit for the job before tying your franchise’s future into a relatively unproven head coach?
Instead, Boylen has both the job security and chance to show that his 58-game stint from last season, which featured a near mutiny, was the adversity that his young roster needed to experience in order to take the next step.
The Bulls should be better next season due to the natural growth of their youngsters and the addition of talented rookies in the 2019 NBA Draft. But fans will continue to ask if Boylen is able to develop his roster into a championship-caliber team.
This extension proves that Chicago’s front office likes his chances.