This guy seems to think of basketball in the context of something larger and more powerful, his thoughts drifting into a hardwood mysticism that only he understands. We lived through the Phil Jackson years of Buddhist/Native American hokum, with odd press conferences and books assigned to players that went almost entirely unread, but this is different. Jackson was mostly doing a bit, creating a marketable persona that elevated him from the ordinary even as it obscured his very real skill as a tactician and manager.
But Boylen really feels it, as if coaching the Bulls is a holy calling. When he's asked about the game, he tends to put things in the context of the very nature of mankind itself. After he responded to an early mutiny by appointing a blue-ribbon leadership committee of players, he described the roles on that board as "about the soul and spirit of the team."
"What I expect the leadership group to do," he said, "is respect and honor the soul of the team."
He said of former Bulls forward Bobby Portis has "got a great soul, a great spirit for the game" and "he has a a soul, which is what I believe in in the game."
Of Chandler Hutchison, Boylen said he "has got such a good spirit -- I think to be a good NBA player, you've got to have a good spirit, his spirit is so positive."
The scouting report on guard Shaq Harrison? "His spirit is so good," Boylen said.
Robin Lopez? "RoLo has a good heart, a good spirit," Boylen said. "He's always sticking up for the essence of the team." Boylen also added, "He's got a great soul and a great spirit."
Asked about Zach LaVine, Boylen said, "What I've learned is he has a big heart."
Boylen describes the goal of his system as "sharing and caring, executing our offense with a pure heart." It didn't take long for him to warm up to Otto Porter after he was acquired, either.
"His approach already is respected," Boylen said. "His spirit is acknowledged."
So let it be reflected in the official minutes.
Lopez's 26-point outburst Monday night was the universe harmonizing with itself too, of course.
"When your heart is pure and you care, I just think those things happen for you," Boylen said. "The ball finds you."
His optimism is fueled by the certainty that, "If your heart's pure and your soul's with the team, it'll work out for us."
And the Bulls will be ready for the Grizzlies on Wednesday night, Boylen is sure, because of the quality of Tuesday's practice. "Our spirit was good," he said. "We worked hard."
Heart and soul and spirit, soul and spirit and heart, and Jim Boylen marching the Bulls onward in this, some consecrated mission to whatever.