Bulls firing Jim Boylen proves Arturas Karnisovas has autonomy — and a vision


Maybe it’s time to take Michael Reinsdorf and Arturas Karnisovas at their word. 

When Reinsdorf introduced Karnisovas as executive vice president of basketball operations in April, the Bulls’ president and chief operating officer emphasized that Karnisovas had full autonomy on all basketball-related matters.

When Karnisovas held an end-of-season conference call with reporters in June, he talked about the critical nature of getting the coaching situation right and how he planned to take his time evaluating Jim Boylen.

The longer Boylen stayed employed, people speculated that Reinsdorf valued money over movement. Many questioned Karnisovas’ autonomy — and sanity — during his evaluation process.

Karnisovas fired Boylen Friday. Just like he fired longtime general manager Gar Forman in April and replaced him with Marc Eversley. A new era is upon the franchise. 

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“I respectfully acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all of those in this organization who have come before me,” Karnisovas said on a conference call with reporters. “But I’m dedicated and committed to cultivating a culture that creates winning and has its sights set on championships.” 

Former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Denver Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Dallas Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas and Philadelphia 76ers assistant Ime Udoka are five of the names on Karnisovas’ list of likely interviews, sources said.

RELATED: Here are 5 initial candidates to replace Jim Boylen as coach 


Three things stand out about the process: Karnisovas is a thoughtful, deliberate decision-maker, not swayed by public pressure and choosing to work by his own process. The perception of the Bulls needed to change, particularly with them projecting to be players in the 2021 free-agent market. And the common characteristic of the initial interview targets is people strong on player relationships and player development.

Just watch the Nuggets as they compete in bubble ball during the NBA restart on the Disney World campus. That roster, which Karnisovas had a large hand in shaping, screams player development. It’s filled with intriguing young, athletic talent and two-way players. 

That’s the vision for the Bulls. And now it will include a new coach.


So why now?

Karnisovas cited an unprecedented regular season ending today and next week’s draft lottery intensifying draft preparation as reasons. But there’s also progress being made on the NBA and NBPA agreeing to allow group workouts at respective team facilities in September for the eight teams not part of the Disney World restart. 

While Karnisovas said there’s no timeline or deadline to have a new coach in place, those workouts would be a good guess.

“In terms of what we’re going to be looking for, we’re going to continue focusing on player development and an emphasis on player development, someone who puts relationships with players first and is a good communicator,” Karnisovas said. “There are a lot of factors going on in terms of criteria that we’re looking for in a coach, but again, those are the main ones. We will start the search immediately.” 

Karnisovas thanked the Reinsdorfs for giving him the autonomy to make a decision based on basketball reasons, not financial ones. You know, just like they said they would.

“The signal is that we’re changing things. It signals that we’re looking forward to what comes next,” Karnisovas said. “We just felt this program needed a change and needed a change now. And I can’t wait to find the next coach for this group.”