Many in the Bulls’ fan base and general cognoscenti have decided their opinion on coach Jim Boylen, and what his future with the team should be.
But Bulls management is not yet prepared to make any declarations.
So was the tenor of general manager Marc Eversley’s introductory conference call with local reporters, which featured insight from executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, as well. Eversley categorized the process of evaluating Boylen as in its “really early” stages, adding that the two have spoken since he accepted his offer.
“Coach (Boylen) and I did have a conversation earlier in the week where he called to congratulate me on accepting the position,” Eversley said. “Just like anything else on our staff, we are going to utilize our time to evaluate everybody on staff — not only players, coaches, but also people in the front office, as well.
“We (he and Boylen) had a really great conversation, and I’m looking forward to spending time with him in Chicago when we’re afforded that opportunity.”
It was always clear the COVID-19 pandemic was going to impact the Bulls’ timeline for a decision on Boylen. Eversley’s comments today all but seal that assumption. Until the team is able to safely reconvene and newly-minted top brass can evaluate both Boylen’s presence in the building and the inner workings of the coaching staff with players, a decision does not appear close to imminent. The same goes for any significant roster changes — though the current transactional freeze while the league endures its hiatus would prohibit those, anyways.
“I think we owe it to everybody on staff to get to Chicago and meet them face-to-face,” Eversley said. “I think we owe it to our players to hopefully get to evaluate them in practice settings, in playing settings. And we owe it to our staff to see them in those types of settings, as well. I just think it's far too early to make those types of decisions with respect to anybody on the staff until we get to Chicago.”
But when might that be? As of this writing, the NBA is reportedly targeting May 8 as the earliest date for a limited reopening of facilities in states relaxing stay-at-home mandates. Governor J.B. Pritzker recently extended Illinois’ stay at home order through May 30. Members of the Bulls are scattered across the country during the pause — Zach LaVine in Seattle, and Coby White in North Carolina being just two examples.
“We're waiting for a lot of direction from the league in case the local government lifts the stay-at-home policy, are we going to be ready to do it?” Karnisovas said when asked if the Bulls have begun developing a plan to reopen team facilities. “We’re going to come up with a process to open our facilities.
“Again, it's a fluid situation. In case we will be able to do it, we will be ready in our facilities because we do believe that our practice facility is the safest environment for our players. But again, at this time we're going to wait and see where our next information is going to come.”
So, while some semblance of a timetable is emerging on a Boylen decision, it’s a murky one. As is what Karnisovas and Eversley’s final verdict will be.
Boylen’s 39-84 win-loss record as head coach of the Bulls, in addition to the natural intuition that a new regime would want to bring in their own front-man, have led many to assume that Boylen’s firing is nigh. But there are factors that could balance the scales — the implementation of a full coaching staff around Boylen just last season, the two years remaining on a three-year extension signed last summer, thin on-court silver linings (a pesky defense, the late-season surge of Coby White) and ownership support, being a few.
Whatever decision is ultimately reached will be a “joint” one between Karnisovas and Eversley, according to Eversley. The question is when. And the exact answer to that, as with many in the post-coronavirus sports world, remains uncertain.