Bulls Insider

How Donovan has Bulls in merry place on Christmas Eve

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Bulls Insider

Christmas Eve has been an eventful day for coaches in Chicago Bulls history.

Twenty years have passed — 20 years! — since Jerry Krause presided over a hastily arranged news conference at the old Berto Center to announce what the Bulls called a resignation by head coach Tim Floyd, but proved a resignation under pressure.

Six years later, Scott Skiles met the same fate, fired by John Paxson unbelievably on the same day. Bah, humbug indeed.

There have been happy memories too.

Phil Jackson’s golden retriever, Bo, running around the Berto Center with a red bow around his neck. Tom Thibodeau and company practicing and preparing for their Christmas Day season opener against the Lakers in the lockout-shortened, and much anticipated, 2011-12 season, a game won on Derrick Rose’s late floater.

Heck, Fred Hoiberg even piped in Christmas carols as background music for one practice he ran during his up-and-down tenure.

All this is a long-winded way of saying: Behold the gift that is Billy Donovan, even if he added to the franchise's colorful history on the day by landing in the league's health and safety protocols.

Give thanks that he unexpectedly landed on the market with Artūras Karnišovas deep in his search to replace Jim Boylen. And praise management for pivoting and aggressively pursuing and landing Donovan.

His tenure has been about as professional and drama-free as anybody could’ve hoped for. Go back to what Karnišovas said at Donovan’s introductory news conference in September 2020.


“In all of my conversations and my personal meetings with Billy, two things stood out: First, he’s a great communicator and values his relationships with others. And second, he has the ability to inspire enthusiasm in others to strive for a common goal,” the Bulls’ executive vice president said then. “Billy has a team-first mentality that embraces collaboration and partnership with his players, staff, and front office, and is very much aligned with the culture we are working to develop. He believes deeply that it’s about the journey and who we’re with that matters.

“This is an opportunity for our organization to walk alongside a great coach who brings tremendous leadership to the table and to build a foundation for a sustainable program that Bulls fans can be proud of.”

Isn’t that what’s happening?

Players talk about his consistency and his ability to hold them accountable without being overly authoritative. His ability to empower each player on the roster, from No. 1 to 15, is another positive trait.

Yes, the players always deserve the lion’s share of the credit in the NBA. But think of the contributions the Bulls have received from players starring in their roles, no matter the size of that role. From DeMar DeRozan to Ayo Dosunmu to Alfonzo McKinnie, the list is lengthy.

This speaks to solid roster construction by management, buy-in and talent from the players, and Donovan and his staff placing players in the best position to succeed. It’s why the Bulls are 19-10 with a very favorable schedule coming out of Christmas.

The Bulls haven’t played on Christmas Day since “The Three Alphas” season of Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade lost to the Spurs in San Antonio in 2016. Look for that five-year drought to end next season.

Donovan and staff will be there, which couldn’t be guaranteed of all Bulls coaches on Christmas Eve.

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