The Bulls and Arturas Karnisovas have reached agreement in principle and are negotiating a deal to make Karnisovas their new head of basketball operations, sources confirmed.
As head of basketball operations, Karnisovas will have authority to hire a new general manager, build out the organizational infrastructure and will have full autonomy over basketball operations, including deciding the future of the coaching staff, sources said.
John Paxson is expected to move into a senior advisory role with no daily presence around the team, sources said. He has offered to help Karnisovas in any manner in which Karnisovas sees fit.
The future of current general manager Gar Forman, who has moved largely into a scouting role, will be discussed.
Karnisovas, a Lithuanian native who is leaving his post as Nuggets general manager, is the first outside hire to run basketball operations since Jerry Reinsdorf led a group of investors to purchase the Bulls in 1985. It's also the first major transaction spearheaded by team president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf, who led the search and conducted the first interview of Karnisovas. Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf met Karnisovas during a second remote interview Wednesday evening.
After playing collegiately at Seton Hall, enjoying a decorated professional career overseas and making two Olympics appearances, Karnisovas worked for the NBA league office on international projects and as an international scout for the Rockets before moving to the Nuggets.
The Nuggets promoted Karnisovas to general manager in 2017 after he had interviews for the Bucks and Nets' general manager positions.
Karnisovas' organizational and leadership skills, originally conveyed to the Bulls in pre-interview discussions with Nuggets owner Josh Kroenke and president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, stood out during the interview process, sources said.
“Inclusivity for me is a huge thing. Hiring intelligent, passionate people is another thing of mine. Just being fair with people and put them in position to do their jobs, not to micromanage them,” Karnisovas told Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix on The Crossover podcast, when asked about his organizational philosophies. “I think with personnel and surrounding yourself with people is the way you deal with players. You’re trying to project what they’re going to be in two or three years. And hopefully you select personnel that have the potential to be also GMs in the future. And you’re going to help them to get there and then be proud when they get there.”
Working with Connelly in Denver, Karnisovas helped assemble a team stocked with young talent that improved from 30 to 54 victories in the Western Conference. Asked by Mannix about the difficulty of projecting the ceiling while drafting young players, Karnisovas said:
“It is, but it’s fun. You have your database in your head and your mistakes and successes. You just take away from each situation and (if) what I said (was) wrong about the player, what were the reasons? Success stories, there’s a lot of luck obviously involved. You just make informative decisions and hopefully that will stick.”
Working with Daryl Morey in Houston, Karnisovas learned about the value of analytics and swinging boldly regarding trades. In Denver, the Nuggets rebuilt successfully.