Jim Boylen’s late-game timeouts while facing seemingly insurmountable deficits are here to stay.
“We were down eight (points) with 40 seconds to go in Charlotte and won. So it does happen,” Boylen said. “But I can see where people would think it's unnecessary. That’s OK.”
That Boylen allowed for some questioning of his late-game tactics is the only change in this lingering story. They’ve become a larger story because, for the second time this season, cameras showed Zach LaVine expressing frustration or bewilderment over the move.
Following Boylen’s latest example of the practice — with the Bulls down 10 and 40 seconds to go in Saturday’s loss to the Suns — the coach disputed the assertion that his players are frustrated by his unconventional tactics. Nevertheless, he met with LaVine before LaVine addressed reporters late Saturday.
“[LaVine]'s frustrated. I think our team is frustrated. Nobody likes to lose games. We’re competitive people. I coach to the end of games. You guys know that. Could some people judge look at that timeout as unnecessary? Of course they can. You can judge it any way you want,” Boylen said before Sunday’s game versus the Wizards. “He’s a fighter. We’re going to fight to the end. I’m going to coach our guys to the end. I think there’s a misconception that Zach and I only talk when there’s something good to talk about or something bad to talk about. We talk all the time. I think it’s a healthy, productive relationship.”
Boylen said LaVine told him that he’s the coach and can call timeout whenever he wants, which squares with what LaVine told reporters. But LaVine also admitted to it being hard to stay locked in for developmental timeouts in the face of such large deficits, not to mention the constant losing.
Nevertheless, Boylen downplayed LaVine’s public reactions.
“You can video me on a 2-on-1 when we turn it over and I make an expression. You can video me on a wide-open 3-pointer we miss and then on the other end they make a contested three and I make an expression. You can do that on every clip and every situation,” Boylen said. “[Setting the tone is] all I’ve been trying to do. I did it last year. I did it this year. We’re trying to establish that we’re going to play until the end and we’re going to compete. We’ve had some tremendous comeback wins this year where we’ve kept playing so I think the guys get that. But I think what we can’t do is not expect people to be frustrated with a losing streak or a home loss. That’s a healthy thing that there’s frustration. It’s a healthy thing that you’ve got competitive people that are upset that we’re hurt and we’re fighting to win games.”
Boylen said the front office supports his practice of coaching to the end.
“I talked to (executive vice president) John (Paxson) this morning. We talk every day,” Boylen said. “I told him, 'I'm gonna coach these guys hard. John (said), ‘Keep doing what you're doing.' It's what we have to do.
“Is there a chance where maybe I'm more competitive in those situations? I think I have to own that.”
Asked if it’s almost defiance, Boylen agreed.
“That I don't want to lose? Yeah. I don't like losing,” he said. “We had a 17-point lead. I thought we played our hearts out — shorthanded — and we battled, got the game back under control. We're up 1 with 7 minutes to go and we didn't play very well the last seven minutes, but yeah I'm hanging onto that.”
Boylen also called a timeout in Toronto in the waning moments on Super Bowl Sunday with the Bulls down over 20 points. A Raptors broadcaster rebuked Boylen for the move.
But Boylen on Sunday reiterated what he said that day, that the timeout was for developmental purposes.
“The thing in Toronto is a different situation. How many ATOs you think Adam Mokoka has had drawn up for him? So that’s a totally different situation — coaching a guy that’s part of our development program, is in a situation he’s never been in and to have something run for him, I think that’s important,” Boylen said. “I don’t worry about if (criticism) is fair or not. I’ve got a job to do. I don’t listen to the cheers and I don’t listen to the boos and I don’t listen to the negativity. I don’t do it. I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to keep doing it.”