It’s been one week since the Bulls fired head coach Fred Hoiberg after a 5-19 start to the season. The team was handed over to assistant coach Jim Boylen, who was left with the task of jumpstarting a young and relatively talented but extremely listless squad. Here’s how that’s going so far: Boylen got the job on Monday, and by Saturday night his players were reportedly organizing a mutiny against him.
It should be impossible for a head coach, particularly one who has already been in the organization for a few years, to lose his team in a matter of days, but Boylen pulled it off by expertly channeling every sweaty mid-major coach whose main skill is screaming at his players about their “piss-poor effort.” His tenure started with a practice last Monday, which was followed by a road game on Tuesday. He then held a full practice on Wednesday, another practice on Thursday, and then the Bulls played a game on Friday. That is an exhausting schedule for an NBA team, and it doesn’t seem to have done any good.
On Saturday, the Bulls got absolutely smoked by the Boston Celtics in one of the most embarrassing performances of the year. Boylen pulled his entire starting unit off the floor multiple times during the 56-point loss, and left all of them on the bench for the final 21 minutes of the game. Then he talked shit about them after the game:
Boylen reportedly promised his players that they would pay for Saturday night’s loss with yet another grueling practice session on Sunday, and that’s when talk of a mutiny began. Details of the players’ displeasure bubbled up at multiple outlets, but The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry painted the most vivid picture of what went down. According to Mayberry, the Bulls spent Saturday night discussing how they wanted to proceed in a group text, and were close to not showing up to the facility at all on Sunday:
That grueling practice never took place Sunday because the Bulls players discussed a boycott of practice, multiple sources told The Athletic. Veteran players spent Saturday night trying to talk Boylen out of a Sunday session, sources said, and when their pleas were rejected, they began bouncing around other ideas in a team-wide group text.
The texts started Saturday night and carried into Sunday morning. One idea that had significant support, according to sources, was the players simply not showing up to the Advocate Center on Sunday. A preliminary plan was to gather at one player’s house and wait for the phones to begin buzzing. That plan fizzled because Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez spoke up, voicing their concerns about the unprofessionalism of that potential act of rebellion, as well as the impact such a stance could have on the roster’s younger, less established players, sources said.
Another idea discussed centered on players walking into the practice facility Sunday morning as a unified group before turning and immediately walking out.
The players eventually settled on a less drastic course of action. They showed up on Sunday, but instead of practicing held two hour-long team meetings, one amongst themselves and one with Boylen, general manager Gar Forman, and team president John Paxson. The situation went from tense to farcical when, after Sunday’s meetings, Boylen spoke to reporters and insisted that, actually, there was no near mutiny, and that the meetings were a mutual decision:
This is and was always going to be a rebuilding season for the Bulls, one in which the head coach’s job would be to nurture and develop the young players who may one day be good enough to turn the franchise around. Hoiberg may have been an uninspiring head coach, but now in his place the Bulls have a guy who thinks he’s in the third act of an inspiring sports movie, and he’s got to make his players run suicides until they puke so that they’ll come together and win 15 games in a row before losing valiantly to Big State in the championship game. The rest of the season should be fun.