In a story published by Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, it was stated that Bulls players reached out to the National Basketball Players Association on Sunday to protest what they felt were “extreme tactics” from new head coach Jim Boylen.
Boylen has made headlines from the start of his tenure as head coach, solidifying his stature as the former “bad cop” to Fred Hoiberg’s “good cop” through lengthy practices and questioning the team’s toughness and intensity.
Boylen has made his coaching style widely-known and shows no plans to change his hard-nosed ways, though Goodwill’s story says that sources told Yahoo Sports that Boylen felt that substituting out all five players at once was extreme in the moment. He initially pulled out all five players after going down 17-0 against the Celtics, and did it again after a 5-3 run by Boston in the second half that definitely seemed like an odd time to pull all five starters.
A telling excerpt from Goodwill’s piece was:
Players felt like they were being treated like high school athletes and those feelings of disrespect escalated when Boylen told the media the players needed to get in better shape, sources said.
Some of the disconnect seems to be stemming from what is being set forth as reasonable expectations. In Goodwill's piece it is stated that Boylen referenced his tenure with the San Antonio Spurs when speaking to the team, and it seems that some of the players are tired of hearing about his connections to the storied franchise:
A player responded, sources said, telling Boylen in essence that they aren’t the Spurs and, more importantly, he isn’t Popovich.
This year is about the development of the Bulls young talent as they likely prepare for another lottery pick. And now any meaningful development is in jeopardy, with so much drama now surrounding the team.
The main issue with firing Fred Hoiberg was always the awkward timing, and things appear to be getting much worse as it is clear there is some disconnect between Boylen and this roster.
A point that Boylen has tried to emphasize multiple times is that the players need to trust him. But with a reported (and unorthodox) directly-after-the-game film session, multiple 2+ hour practices and the aforementioned 5-man substitution in the blowout loss to Boston, it is clear that it will be hard for the players to fully trust him until they are on the same page as far as what both sides—Boylen and the players—expect from each other.