LAS VEGAS — Jim Boylen was long gone from the Thomas & Mack Center by the time the earthquake hit on Friday night.
The Bulls’ head coach was back in his room at the Cosmopolitan, breaking down tape of the team’s Summer League-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers with newly-promoted assistant Paul Miller.
“We were two minutes into the first quarter,” Boylen said Saturday afternoon, speaking outside the team’s meeting room. Then, in an on-brand move, he praised the earthquake’s spirit and soul.
“I just think it’s the awesome power of nature to think that something can move that building that much,” Boylen said “It’s awe-inspiring to me.”
Boylen was in rare form in his first extended public comments since free agency began. He preached the merits of his trademark “Bulls across the chest” mentality, as well as as praising the grit and toughness of the Summer League debuts of the team’s two rookies, No. 7 overall pick Coby White and No. 38 overall pick Daniel Gafford.
By league rules, Boylen was not allowed to comment on the Bulls’ impending signings of forward Thaddeus Young, guard Tomas Satoransky and center Luke Kornet before they were made official. (The team announced the signing of Young later on Saturday afternoon.)
Still, it was clear that Boylen couldn’t be more jacked and juiced about his first full season at the helm in Chicago.
He’s got a new three-year contract extension after an up-and-down (mostly down) season taking over for Fred Hoiberg in mid-December. He has his own staff now, with veterans Chris Fleming and Roy Rogers coming on board as he attempts to reshape the team in his image.
Boylen praised the communication and rapport he’s developed with Michael Reinsdorf, John Paxson and Gar Forman as he’s transitioned from assistant coach to the top job. He boiled 120 pages of offseason notes down to a comprehensive presentation to management about his vision. You know all the buzzwords—grit, toughness, soul, spirit. But most of all, Boylen wants continuity. The Bulls’ 22-60 season was highlighted by injuries to just about every key young player, from franchise centerpieces Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen to rookie center Wendell Carter, Jr. and trade-deadline acquisition Otto Porter, Jr.
With a healthy roster and the signings of quality veterans like Young, Kornet and Satoransky, Boylen is hoping he won’t have to play a rotation full of G Leaguers if the starters sustain more injuries.
“What we talked about is we wanted to bring in high character depth that could support our current roster,” Boylen said. “I also wanted a team that was duplicit and redundant so we could play the same way. We’ve struggled the last couple years to play on a night when we had injury or illness, where we had to change our style of play before the game. I don’t want that. The good teams don’t have that.”
The Bulls don’t plan on winning 22 games again this season. The third year of their rebuild will be a pivotal one. They believe LaVine and Markkanen are their future, and the next step will be to string together enough wins to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, or at least to become respectable.
It will be on Boylen to steer this rebuild. In the early going, he’s optimistic about the returns and the outlook for the future.
“I feel in my heart that we're getting all the right people on the bus in the right places and I'm excited for that.”