The Chicago Bulls, fresh off a successful season of not winning too many games to miss out on a primo lottery spot, reportedly have signed a “multi-year” extension with head coach Jim Boylen. Boylen, who took over for Fred Hoiberg as interim coach during last season and had already signed an extension for this upcoming season back in January, was expected to stick around, because the team was already paying Hoiberg $10 million across this past season and next year and there was little chance they’d want to pay three coaches at once. But whatever line the franchise gives Woj about Boylen’s abilities with young players, it’s hard to look at the season Chicago just had and see any reason that this coach is the one they need to lock up for the future.
Boylen, who went 17-41 as head coach of the Bulls, gained a reputation within his first week on the job as an overeager disciplinarian who alienated and exhausted his players with demanding, punitive practices. In the immediate days after he was hired, Boylen held practices on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with games on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. On that Saturday, the Bulls lost by 56 points and Boylen called his players’ performance “embarassing.” He promised another hard practice that Sunday, but Bulls players reportedly organized a mutiny to boycott that session, so instead it turned into a couple hours of team meetings. The day after those meetings, the Bulls got clowned in a 108-89 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
This debacle led to a meeting of Bulls executives and coaches where someone floated the idea of a “leadership committee” to serve as a liaison between players and coaches. It’s never a good sign when a coach appears to need a task force just to communicate with his guys, but somehow, just a month after the enormous mess of Boylen’s debut, the Bulls decided to extend him through 2019-20. They were 5-13 under Boylen at that time.
The best argument you can make for this coach is the way he apparently won over Zach LaVine, who was clearly unhappy about the team’s situation in January but by March offered to pay Boylen’s fine for an ejection. But already extending him beyond next season just feels like defiant doubling-down from a team that hasn’t made a correct decision in years. Whatever these stubborn Bulls see in Jim Boylen that gets them so excited, it’s not visible to anyone else yet.