Do the Bulls Need to Fire Jim Boylen to Save Their Season?

In life, there are good decisions, bad decisions, decisions that have no real impact on things and decisions which seemed like a good idea at the time but later turned out not to be so.

When John Paxson and Gar Forman saw fit to extend Jim Boylen’s contract as head coach by some three years, there were more than a few Chicago natives who raised an eyebrow at the call. Of course, they had fired Fred Hoiberg back in December 2018, so most were willing to give Boylen time to settle and let his ideas filter through to his roster.

Well, where do you draw the line and say enough is enough?


‘Chicago Bulls’ – Tony via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The 54-year-old oversaw a wretched 12-37 record in his first season in charge, and the Bulls were fortunate not to prop up the rest in the Central Division. That led to catcalls from the stands and the feeling that the coach was on borrowed time already.

And then, for all the promises of the off-season, those woes have continued with the disappointing 4-7 resumé so far this term. For a side of the Bulls’ history, defeats to the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Charlotte Hornets and the New York Knicks are hard to take, and a loss to an Indiana Pacers outfit shorn of the talents of Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner is downright near unforgivable. Their poor recent record has naturally had an effect on their odds as can be seen in the previews at Betzcenter.

Upcoming games against the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets will reveal more about the character of this roster, and also whether they are willing to perform – both in terms of energy output and in implementing Boylen’s tactics – or not.

The Blame Game

One of the most alarming aspects thus far has been Boylen’s willingness to pass the buck to all and sundry, which is always a sign of a coach looking to save his own bacon. The most recent target of his ire has been his players:

“I think they need to take more responsibility for their preparedness. I think they need to take more ownership of their readiness to play. The head coaches in this league have never been expected to coach effort. Effort has to come from each guy”, he told NBC.

One of the measures of a head coach is whether or not they can get the best out of their players, young or old. It’s a concept that, once again, Boylen falls short on. Take Lauri Markkanen as the perfect case in point. After a series of impressive showings as a rookie, the Finn simply has not made the leap to the next level.

In fact, most Bulls’ fanatics thought they had a star on their hands as entered his sophomore campaign, but ‘second-season syndrome’, if we can call it that, crept in and now Markkanen is leaving the same supporters formerly drooling at his play tearing out their hair in frustration. The 22-year-old is shooting just 26% on 6.1 attempts this term, as per the NBA stats database, adding to an awful free-throw conversion rate for which Zach LaVine must also shoulder some of the blame.

Wendall Carter Jr, Otto Porter and countless others: these are big-time players who have been reduced to mediocrity in the famous red jersey. A systemic series of failures, on the court and in the front office, are combining to turn the Chicago Bulls into a laughing stock of the NBA – a ‘wow, look what happened to those guys!’ comedy act.

The Reinsdorf family now boast the longest front office tenure in the NBA, and current decision-maker Jerry’s misguided belief that Paxson, Forman and Boylen – the axis of evil – are the guys to turn the Bulls around is scraping the barrel of optimism at best and downright ludicrous at worst. Head coaches, recently given contract extensions, have been fired in mid-season before. Surely now is the time for the Bulls to wield the axe once more before this terminal degradation gets any worse.

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