Artūras Karnišovas is embarking on his first coaching search as the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations.
Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone knows a little something about Karnišovas and coaching searches. Karnišovas served as Tim Connelly’s general manager in 2015 when the Nuggets hired Malone.
“What you just witnessed was a prime example of who Artūras is. He’s not going to rush to make any rash decisions, regardless of the outside noise and pressure for him to do so. I think he’s very patient, very calculated, very organized. I think he took his time with Jim Boylen before making a very tough decision,” Malone said Tuesday during his Zoom media availability session from the NBA’s Disney World campus. “Making that decision is not one that is easily made, especially by someone like Artūras, who is a phenomenal person, and who I feel very fortunate to call a great friend — he and his family.
“I love Artūras. We have spent so much time together in my five years in Denver, whether it’s before games, after practices. But even more importantly, we have gone on so many trips over to Europe to visit our players and visit other teams.”
Malone’s gushing underscores the executive approach that Karnišovas has said he likes to take with coaches and players. He wants to build genuine relationships so that he can hold them accountable.
“I think people get fooled by the Lithuanian background. Artūras is a sweetheart,” Malone said. “Once you get to know him, he has a great sense of humor. Unbelievable person who would do anything for anybody. I’m a big Bulls fan now because of Artūras. He means a lot to me and my family.”
Malone calling himself a Bulls fan echoes what Connelly expressed during an April interview with NBC Sports Chicago. This is the type of executive-coach relationship and synergy paramount to the player development that Karnišovas has cited as his main goal in Chicago.
It’s also one of the ingredients, along with good communication skills and placing a premium on player relationships, that Karnišovas said last Friday will drive the Bulls’ search.
It has to be an odd feeling for Karnišovas to watch the Nuggets in the playoffs, a roster he had a large hand in shaping. Jamal Murray’s breathtaking performance in Monday’s overtime victory over the Jazz highlights the youthful talent in abundance.
Under Malone, the Nuggets have improved from 33 victories to back-to-back playoff appearances with a roster that is filled with versatile, two-way players and screams player development. Nikola Jokić, a perennial All-NBA pick, was a second-round draft choice. So is Monte Morris, a key contributor.
Upon his hiring in April, Karnišovas talked about what he left behind in Denver.
“We created a sustainable program that is going to be successful for a very long time,” Karnišovas said then. “Proud of the fact that for the fifth season in a row, we were going to improve winning percentage, going from 33 to 40 to 46 to 54 wins. Who knows what was going to happen this year? It's a difficult decision because I had a wonderful seven years in Denver.
“In those seven years we created a great front office and the players that we brought in and the coaching staff, we created the functionality that would be between ownership, front office, coaches and players.”