The Bulls have picked up the option for the 2020-21 season on assistant coach Nate Loenser’s contract, sources told NBC Sports Chicago.
Loenser is well-liked and well-respected by players as varied as Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Spencer Dinwiddie, and has developed a strong reputation for player development.
Fred Hoiberg hired Loenser as video coordinator in 2015-16 and Loenser then served as head coach of the G League Windy City Bulls — where he coached Dinwiddie — in 2016-17. Dinwiddie consistently raved about Loenser.
Hoiberg then moved Loenser to a behind-the-bench assistant coaching role for the Bulls in 2017-18. Jim Boylen moved Loenser to his current role as an on-bench assistant coach when he replaced Hoiberg in December 2018.
With Boylen under contract for two more seasons, multiple outlets, including NBC Sports Chicago, have reported that Karnisovas is using the NBA hiatus to evaluate Boylen and the coaching staff. Loenser is the only coach with a contract option that required an immediate decision. Director of player development Shawn Respert, who sought a larger role with the team, is moving on.
During the interview process to hire Karnisovas as executive vice president, Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf made clear that Karnisovas will have final say on all basketball-related decisions. Reinsdorf also explained why they hired and extended Boylen, and asked Karnisovas to get to know Boylen before making a decision on his future.
Given Karnisovas’ reputation around the league as a thoughtful, substantive decision-maker, those who know him and new general manager Marc Eversley well believe they would have taken the route of fully acquainting themselves with Boylen before making a final decision, regardless.
Karnisovas has a comfort level with two assistant coaches on Boylen’s staff. He worked with Chris Fleming in Denver and knows Dean Cooper from Houston, though their stints there didn't cross.