In his first public comments on the Bulls' new front office, coach Jim Boylen believes he's forming a strong initial relationship with executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley.
"The relationship has gone really well," Boylen told Jack Doles of WOOD-TV, an NBC affiliate in the coach's hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., with a question and local angle given to Doles by sister station WGN-Ch. 9 in Chicago. "We communicate every day. I think they understand where we were, what we're trying to get to. They've been very supportive and collaborative. It's a process to build this team into what it can be. I just like the fact that we have a relationship already. It's never perfect. Nothing's perfect. You just work at it. Tell the truth. You get your guys to play hard. That's what we're trying to do."
Boylen spoke after giving a speech at a Unity in the Community event in Grand Rapids in which he continued to show support for social justice and addressing racial inequity. Last month, Boylen participated with Wendell Carter Jr. and other Bulls staffers in a Juneteenth march in Grant Park. And Karnisovas said on a conference call with reporters that Boylen has been vocal in team Zoom discussions on the issues.
"I just think we have to tell the truth. We can't cover things up. We've made mistakes. We've got to own up to those mistakes," Boylen told the Grand Rapids TV station. "It's a difficult time. It's raw right now and it should be. I'm just hoping we can use this moment to be better, all of us."
Jim Boylen believes the bond he's forming with the #Bulls new front office is going really well— Rick Tarsitano (@RickTarsitano) July 16, 2020
"I just like the fact that we have a relationship already. It’s never perfect. Nothing’s perfect. You just work at it. Tell the truth." @WGNNews https://t.co/jf4TOepOhx
As for Boylen's future, Karnisovas has empowered Boylen for now, although speculation about his long-term fit exists. Karnisovas has asked for Boylen's input on player development strategies and potential hires in that department. The front office and coaching staff also have had multiple meetings about the current roster as well as draft and free agency discussions.
Publicly, Karnisovas has made it clear he wants to get to know Boylen and his staff and also watch him in action before making a decison on his future. The NBA and NBPA are discussing possible holding a second so-called "bubble" for the eight teams, including the Bulls, not invited to the NBA's restart in Orlando, Fla. That bubble almost certainly would take place in Chicago and would give Boylen and his staff an opportunity to work in a developmental phase with players for Karnisovas and Eversley to view.
Boylen and his staff are operating as if they'll return for the 2020-21 season. He is confident Karnisovas and Eversley understand the improvement the Bulls made as a young team in areas like defense, pace and shot quality before widespread injuries hit. Boylen has two years remaining on his deal and has a strong relationship with ownership.
"We have a young team," Boylen told the Grand Rapids TV station. "We were 23 1/2 years old. We had an injury-laden season. We need to play. We need to compete. We played very hard. We were a hard-playing team, but we want to keep that edge going into next year. It's hard to do that without the competition part of it. We're hoping we can have some of that."
Boylen dined with Karnisovas and Eversley last week in Chicago. They also have been watching the voluntary player workouts that have been taking place at the Advocate Center together, which last week included Zach LaVine. Boylen had welcomed Karnisovas to the organization in a team-issued statement upon the executive's hiring in April but hadn't commented publicly on the full new regime, which replaced John Paxson and Gar Forman. Paxson, who held Karnisovas' role, is now in a senior advisor role. Forman, who was the general manager, was fired.
After his initial decision on Forman and the hirings of Pat Connelly and J.J. Polk for the front office, all of Karnisovas' decisions have been based on time-sensitive issues. He declined to pick up the option of athletic trainer Jeff Tanaka and exercised the option on assistant coach Nate Loenser. Beyond Loenser, Karnisovas has a comfort level with two other assistant coaches on Boylen's staff. He previously worked with lead assistant coach Chris Fleming, who recently interviewed for the Knicks' head coaching vacancy, in Denver. And Karnisovas crossed paths with Dean Cooper in Houston.
With the unknown surrounding the 2020-21 calendar because of COVD-19, it's clear Karnisovas is in no hurry to make a decision.