In divulging his criteria for his general manager hire, Arturas Karnisovas emphasized that he didn’t want “a clone.” He sought an independent thinker who would work well in a collaborative front office much like the ones Karnisovas experienced in Houston and Denver.
That said, Marc Eversley’s pending hire as GM, which is expected to be officially announced by the Bulls later this week, is significant not only for his differences from Karnisovas but also some important similarities.
Like Karnisovas, Eversley is a hire from outside the organization. Like Karnisovas, he’s well regarded for his strong relationships throughout the league. And though Karnisovas led this search, Eversley’s pending hire is aimed at modernizing a front office in an age of player empowerment — much like Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf’s spearheading of the Karnisovas pursuit.
Make no mistake: Though this hire is significant, this remains Karnisovas’ show. Whether the Bulls’ rebuild sinks or swims still most significantly lies in Karnisovas’ vision.
But in hiring Eversley, who is black and worked at Nike for a decade before joining the NBA executive ranks, the Bulls are mindful that developing strong relationships with players on a professional and personal level is more important than ever. Reinsdorf told White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams, who is African-American, that one of his goals in modernizing the front office is to connect with players on a cultural level, as well.
In talking to three people who have worked with Eversley, all of whom spoke on background because the hire isn’t yet official, some consistent themes emerged. Eversley is a hard worker who arrives at the gym early and stays late. He’s invested in building genuine relationships — and not just with players, but with their families and agents, too, if the player opens that avenue. His background rests in player development and scouting.
In this last sense, and given he has worked for three different franchises, there won’t be much of a learning curve for Eversley.
Former Suns, Raptors and 76ers executive Bryan Colangelo hired Eversley away from Nike, and Colangelo’s track record in empowering rising executives who became success stories is strong. Masai Ujiri and Elton Brand are two examples.
Eversley developed strong relationships with DeMar DeRozan in Toronto and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia, two of his former associates said. It’s these types of connections, along with Karnisovas’ vision, that could help the Bulls make progress in restoring their reputation with some agents and players.
That is essential in today’s NBA, particularly in free agency.
As for Eversley’s scouting chops, a source said he was all in on Damian Lillard, who went to Portland two selections before the Raptors chose Terrence Ross in 2012. And while he also did significant work on Markelle Fultz before the 76ers selected him No. 1 over Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum and De’Aaron Fox in 2017, even a rival executive said that the pick and draft process made sense for Philadelphia at that time.
Eversley was also instrumental in identifying a fit for promising shooting guard Matisse Thybulle, whom the 76ers traded up to acquire from the Celtics last year.
Karnisovas, who turned 49 Monday, has reached agreements with Eversley as general manager, salary cap expert J.J. Polk as an assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Pat Connelly. Plenty remains on his to-do list.
But with no set NBA calendar because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, time remains on Karnisovas’ side. He has spent time getting to know the roster and beginning to form relationships with players. He has met with coach Jim Boylen and worked to get to know his staff. He is analyzing the medical and training staffs.
As reported previously, the lack of known timeline for the NBA calendar and offseason could benefit Boylen and his staff. Boylen also could benefit from the arrival of Eversley, who could take some responsibilities off Boylen’s plate that Boylen felt compelled to address as former general manager Gar Forman focused mainly on scouting.
Karnisovas has met with the scouting staff and front office holdovers like associate general manager Brian Hagen, assistant general manager Steve Weinman and director of pro personnel Jim Paxson. With the uncertainty of when the NBA draft will be held, time will tell if Karnisovas will seek some continuity in retaining some of these executives or if he’ll rely on his and Eversley’s work.
Either way, that partnership is ready to try to move the Bulls’ front office forward.