Bulls mailbag: What is Jim Boylen's future? Timeline on GM decision?


The Bulls are making so much news these days that you can do a mailbag without soliciting questions. Between followers @-ing me on Twitter to unsolicited emails, there still are plenty of questions about four major issues. Here they are:

Is Arturas Karnisovas seriously considering keeping Jim Boylen as coach?

Here’s what Karnisovas said on Boylen in a video interview with NBC Sports Chicago:

“I don’t want to make any rash decisions. I want to sit down with him. I want to evaluate. I want to watch our games from last year, what we could’ve done better, how I can help, what needs to change.”

Multiple outlets, including NBC Sports Chicago, have reported that Boylen still has ownership support from Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf. They signed off on extending him for two seasons beyond this one, though the deal makes him among the lowest-paid coaches in the league. So eating that money, should Karnisovas want to make a change, wouldn’t be a deterrent.

And Boylen’s future will be Karnisovas’ call. Karnisovas is serious when he said he plans to get to know Boylen, whom he doesn’t know well, before making a final decision.

This also has been previously reported, but the uncertainty of the NBA calendar could delay this decision and perhaps even benefit Boylen. If the league tries to resume the 2019-20 season for all teams and shortens the season, perhaps retaining Boylen to see how he fares for those few games makes sense.

Adding to the uncertainty is the unknown of the rhythms of the 2020 offseason, plus whether an attempt to resume the 2019-20 season pushes back the start of the 2020-21 season. Would more future coaching candidates become available then?

Another layer to this decision is that Karnisovas has a strong relationship with assistant coach Chris Fleming, who he helped hire for one season in Denver. Their association dates back to Fleming’s days as a successful head coach in Germany. Boylen targeted Fleming last offseason, and Fleming’s offensive philosophy sounds similar to Karnisovas’. Fleming’s presence could benefit Boylen, at least in the short-term.

Karnisovas also said he plans to talk to players to get to know them. This likely would lead to some insight on Boylen’s standing with players inside the locker room. Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen publicly expressed frustration at times last season over their roles or the systems in place. So that input will add another component to Karnisovas’ decision-making process.

Also, it's not exactly going out on a limb to say any executive, particularly one who has worked for years to land his first lead opportunity, might want his own coach in place at some point. John Paxson fired friend and former teammate Bill Cartwright, who was hired by Jerry Krause, in December 2003 and replaced him with Scott Skiles.

When will Arturas Karnisovas hire his general manager?

Here’s Karnisovas’ answer from his video interview with NBC Sports Chicago:

“I’m going to have an extensive and diverse process. I have an advantage over Michael (Reinsdorf) when he was making 200 calls, and he doesn’t know people he’s talking to. I’ve been in this profession a long time. Most of the guys on the list I know personally and I’ve known them for a long time, from scouting games and going to dinners and interaction. It’s going to be easier for me. I know exactly the criteria I’m looking for. It’s going to be complementary to me and my skill set. I don’t want clones. I want somebody who is going to bring something different to our organization.” 

There are candidates on Karnisovas’ list beyond the previously reported names of Matt Lloyd (Magic), Mark Hughes (Clippers) and Marc Eversley (76ers.) In fact, in another sign this is a new era in Bulls basketball, sources said Karnisovas hasn’t ruled out interviewing select player agents. Jerry Reinsdorf historically frowned upon dealing with agents, a stance changed when Michael Reinsdorf interviewed Jazz general manager Justin Zanik, who started as an agent, for the executive vice president of basketball operations role.

This is one of Karnisovas’ most critical hires, and there is speculation around the league that he has preferred candidates. You don’t spend time hoping to lead a franchise one day without formulating ideas about how to execute a leadership plan. 

But Karnisovas also is known as a thorough, process-oriented person. So expect to see him let that process fully play out for this critical hire.

Won’t Arturas Karnisovas feel like John Paxson is meddling with him still around? 

Here’s what Karnisovas said on this subject during a Monday conference call with reporters

“John has a great reputation around the league and has been with the organization for a number of years, and can be an asset of information. He’s been gracious in welcoming me. I’ve appreciated his candor and his great love for the Bulls and the city of Chicago. So I see him now as an asset and could be a huge help while I’m making this transition.’’ 

This isn’t lip service. Karnisovas understands that Paxson knows the nuances of the franchise and the Reinsdorfs. But Paxson will not be around the team on a daily basis and only consulted by Karnisovas if and when he chooses to do so.  Paxson will have no power for final decision-making, merely a voice if Karnisovas wants to use it. 

Anyone who knows Paxson knows he’s not a meddler. All he wants is to help his successor succeed in any manner that Karnisovas wants and for the Bulls to thrive again. He initiated the need for this massive front office overhaul. But don't take our word for it. Take Michael Reinsdorf's.

"John indicated to my Dad and me that he was no longer the right person to lead the Chicago Bulls. And that's really the kind of person John is. I've always said that when the time came to make a change, John would be the one to let us know, and that is indeed what ended up happening," Reinsdorf said Monday. "I was really excited though because it made the next steps clearer for me. We had a direction we were going to go. We not only needed to grow our basketball operations department, but one of the most important steps I had to take was to find the right person to lead our organization."

Will Gar Forman be hired by another team?

The early talk around the league is yes. Forman, for all his issues involving trust with some agents and other executives, is also known as an extremely strong talent evaluator. He has two years left on his contract with the Bulls, which will be paid to him in some fashion, a source said. But he’s likely to land a scouting job with another team.

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