Nine years ago, when Marc Eversley worked for the Raptors, he traveled to Latvia for the U-19 FIBA World Cup.
Though he had met Arturas Karnisovas before, that tournament marked the first time the pair spent quality time together.
“Scouting in Europe is often very tricky. When you’re an American or Canadian who is scouting in Europe, you tend to latch onto people like that,” Eversley, who is a dual citizen, said in a video interview with NBC Sports Chicago. “I’ve learned a lot from him (Karnisovas) in terms of scouting the game globally. He’s a gym rat. I think we’re going to make a great team and partnership.”
There’s no way either man could’ve known then that, one day, they’d be hired to try to help restore the Bulls’ iconic global brand and winning ways. But here they are, the Lithuanian-born Karnisovas hired as executive vice president of basketball operations and the England-born, Canadian-raised Eversley hired as general manager.
Karnisovas sits atop the basketball food chain. His vision and philosophy is the main force. However, in hiring Eversley, he has tabbed a right-hand man who, like Karnisovas did in Houston and Denver, has worked in collaborative front offices.
Their partnership will be instrumental in trying to jump start the Bulls’ rebuild.
“We are both basketball junkies. I think we both live in the gym and like to be in the gym,” Eversley said. “I think what may be attractive for him is where I came from in Philadelphia, we really focused on player development, process and structure. I can bring those to the table here to help complement him.
“In terms of challenging him, I love his ideas of having an open room and open dialogue. It’s what I’m used to from my past experiences, as long as everybody knows it’s our job to equip ‘AK’ with as much information as possible so he can make the best possible decisions.”
It seemed telling that Karnisovas answered a question on division of labor with a collaboration-focused response. Whether it’s internally or in inter-organization dealings, Karnisovas and Eversley will work in concert. For, say, a trade negotiation, one of Karnisovas or Everlsey might have a stronger relationship with an executive to leverage. In a different scenario, one might share a strong connection with an agent for a free agent pursuit. Even externally, Karnisovas said they will share duties like meeting with reporters to detail the team’s vision and actions.
“The luxury that we have with our current hires is that we're coming from a lot of different programs. And we can take the best scouting practices and how we look at evaluating players, how we look at player development,” Karnisovas said. “We're going to share our responsibilities. We're going to hear each other out and make a decision at the end of the day.
“Talking to him (Eversley) throughout this (interview) process, I liked his vision on structure and what is important for the organization. I will use a lot of his ideas. In many ways, his values are close to mine. We value inclusion of staff; we will challenge our staff. We will implement transparency, communication, functionality. And finally, Marc’s relationship with players and coaches will play a key role.”
Last Sunday, after Eversley’s second round of interviews with team president Michael Reinsdorf, new assistant general manager JJ Polk and new vice president of player personnel Pat Connelly, Karnisovas and Reinsdorf agreed to offer Eversley the job the next morning. Instead, fired up after watching Episodes 3 and 4 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary, Karnisovas called an audible.
“I was so emotional watching it, I was thinking, ‘Why do I have to wait until Monday? Let me check if he’s up,’” Karnisovas said. “So he responds that he did not get a chance to watch it live, and now they’re replaying it again on ESPN. So he’s on his couch watching. It’s late, around 1 a.m. Eastern time. So I’m doing the same (watching the film).
“But now I’m calling him to offer him the job while ‘The Last Dance’ is in the background. I thought it was a great moment for me, for Marc, for the organization, when we agreed on a deal to make him the general manager for the Chicago Bulls while watching that documentary.”
The franchise has produced greatness before. Can it happen again? A partnership is poised to try.