When he was handed the reins in Chicago part way through last season, Jim Boylen did not try to be a coach so much as he tried to be an idea of a coach, the approach someone might take with a job if they simply workshopped some things they’d seen on television. He benched the entire Bulls starting lineup several times in his first game as head coach—a delicious 56-point loss to the Celtics—and then drove the team to mutiny in an admirably short amount of time. He ran a ship so miserable there was talk of the Bulls organization forming some kind of intermediary task force to smooth things over, an idea that left Boylen “juiced” and “jacked up.” Now drop and give him 20.
For whatever reason, the Bulls extended Boylen’s contract in January, and he seems to have split the offseason between shopping for sticker charts and dunce caps at the school supply store and coming up with more creative ways to be a hardass. The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry has catalogued Boylen’s new strategies for the season, the first of which was inspired by the coach’s days assembling tires and motor mounts at a Cadillac factory:
He ordered a time clock. He had it painted from green to red and inscribed with “Chicago Bulls” in white letters on the front. On the sides are Bulls logos. It sits on a north wall inside the Advocate Center, just off the training room, steps away from the weight room. To the right, resting in two small adjacent grey placeholders, are the players’ time cards. Each one is red and white, with the player’s name and his jersey number at the top. The custom-made cards also are adorned with a Bulls logo.
“So when guys come through the doors they punch in now,” Boylen said. “Punching in to work.”
Mayberry reports that Boylen remembered punching into work as “cool but also symbolic,” a gauge of responsibility and accountability, which may come in handy when your profession lacks handy metrics for that like “how many games you have won or lost.” Boylen reportedly now requires that players be in the building 45 minutes early for practices, which run nearly three hours. (Most teams run theirs between two and two-and-a-half.) He’s also trying out “custom-made T-shirts” and “guessing games in group sessions that test players’ vocabulary.” I’m still working to confirm reports he’s hired my third grade Spanish teacher as an assistant.
Under Boylen’s reign of terror, the Bulls are 17-41; they finished 27-55 last season. For his next gimmick, might I suggest he try to win some games? The Bulls have a roster full of potential, two maybe–All-Stars in Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine, and trusty veterans in Thad Young, Otto Porter and Tomas Satoransky. A playoff berth this year isn’t at all out of the question. It just might take a coach less concerned with imparting life lessons and hokey props to get them there.