Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Karnisovas still hasn’t set foot in Chicago since the Bulls officially hired him as their new executive vice president of basketball operations on April 13. When he does arrive, he plans to sit down with Boylen, the coaching staff and holdover front office members for basketball philosophy discussions and film review.
Only then, Karnisovas said, will he make a decision on the future of Boylen and others. The Boylen question is the one that hovers over the organization after the Bulls disappointed in a 22-43 season and were left out of the NBA’s 22-team restart in Orlando in late July, but they do have time on their side. This NBA season won’t end until October, and training camp for the ensuing campaign is scheduled to start in November.
“I know that you are anxious for me to comment definitively on our future of the Chicago Bulls,” Karnisovas said without being prompted on a Zoom call with local media Saturday morning. “I understand that anticipation. That said, I take pride in being deliberate and thoughtful in my decision-making and take the weight of my decisions seriously. I’m not inclined to make evaluations prematurely to satisfy our excitement to move this team forward.”
Boylen is 39-84 across parts of two seasons leading the Bulls, with his .317 winning percentage representing the second-worst mark in franchise history. He has two seasons remaining on his contract. The player feedback to Karnisovas on Boylen has been mixed, and the expectation is the Bulls will part ways with Boylen at some point this offseason, the Sun-Times has reported.
Karnisovas didn’t reveal exactly when he will be in Chicago, other than to hint that it will be soon – “I’m on my way,” he said. When that time does come and there are no games or practices to observe with Boylen in charge, how will Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley evaluate their coach?
“Coaching in the league is very difficult,” Karnisovas said. “To make a decision about coaching is really hard. It’s probably the hardest thing for executives. So I look at a lot of aspects. I’ve had numerous conversations. That said, I’d like to be in a building, to be in practices, to be around the coaching staff in meetings. We’re looking forward to getting in the video room together, analyze the games, to watch games together.
“Talking to players and coaches, obviously everyone is disappointed with the results last year. They definitely underperformed. Watching games, I’m excited to watch because there’s a lot of talent on this team. In order for me to keep players and coaches accountable, I have to have personal relationships with them. That’s what I need to cultivate. That’s my objective this offseason.”
The Bulls now find themselves in an odd position, as they’re set to go about nine months between games. The Bulls were actively campaigning to be included in the NBA’s restart, Karnisovas said, and while he was disappointed they weren’t, he also expressed an understanding of the unique circumstances.
The eight NBA teams that have been left out of the restart have been in contact about how to best keep their players sharp amid the long layoff, Karnisovas said. The league has had discussions about those teams holding mini-camps in the offseason, and Karnisovas floated the idea of scrimmages as well. His hope is the Bulls can gather for team-oriented work and get their players in a competitive setting.
While Boylen takes the brunt of the Bulls fan base’s anger these days, it was the players who faltered on the floor after proclaiming the playoffs as their goal this past season. Karnisovas recognizes that too, and he delivered what amounts to his message for the organization as a whole now.
“Before the accountability, I got to know them,” Karnisovas said. “We keep each other accountable. I will cultivate a selfless attitude with the players. There's not going to be any excuses. The youth, the injuries, all that stuff is not going to be an excuse moving forward. Because this group is too talented not to perform better.”