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Deconstructing the Chicago Bulls Implosion – Part 2 Hiring a Coach

The first task the Chicago Bulls face is finding a new coach. Ideally, this would be done before the draft, so General Manager, John Paxson, can work with the new coach in figuring out who’s staying and who’s going, because there need to be some changes in personell.

Barring a lot of trade activity, which is probable, the new coach is inheriting a group that was actively ignoring their coaches. Jim Boylan was set up as an inexpensive option to get them through the season and appears to have been seen by the players as a lame duck at best and a substitute teacher at worst. Scott Skiles lost the team as they grew tired of his high-pressure antics and almost whimsical substitution patterns. They could well tune out any disciplinarian approaches to coaching, which is ironic in a situation where there needs to be a new sherrif in town. My suspicion is the Bulls need a coach who can get some respect from his name from day one. Someone with enough credentials for the younger players to take seriously without a lenghty courtship. This may not be easily done, as the Bulls have traditionally appeared reluctant to shell out huge coaching salaries, and that might be what it takes. There’s also the stated expectation that the current assistant coaches be retained. Now maybe they get switched to scouting positions, but your better coaching candidates are going to want to bring in their own people.

Let’s look at who might be available:

Rick Carlisle: A former coach of year, Carlisle is generally considered a fine backetball mind. He’s also reputed to be hard-nosed and if the players think he sounds too much like Skiles, he could be quickly tuned out. 

Mike Fratello: He’s gotten all three of his teams to the play-offs and his slow-down reputation with the Caveliers is a bit exagerated (it was the only way he could get them into the play-offs). Does he want to leave a nice TV gig for what could be a big mess in Chicago?

Jeff Van Gundy: Well regarded. Been to the finals. His preference for the half-court game completely doesn’t suit the Bulls. Probably too expensive.

Larry Brown: A basketball genius whose name gets instant respect and who can teach the game to young players. He almost certainly wouldn’t have enough say in the roster, retaining the assistants would be an issue, the soap opera that follows him would clash even more with the Reinsdorf regime and he’s expensive. Ideal coach for the situation? Probably, but file it under “not going to happen.”

Chris Ford: Won a ring with the Celtics as a player and had a good run with them as a coach. Currently pro personnel scout for the Sixers. His success with the Celtics might be ancient history for young players.

Paul Silas: Did a good job with the Hornets and has rings to show from his playing days. Might have some street cred.

Mark Aguirre: Stop laughing. A Chicago native who starred at DePaul, he might be a popular local pick. A Knicks assistant, he coaches their summer league team and wants to be a head coach. I like him better as an assistant to instruct the young frontcourt in how to score.

Bill Laimbeer: While about as likely to happen as Larry Brown, Laimbeer has excelled in the WBNA and is purportedly interested in moving up. He also conducts practices with sarcasm substituting for screaming. Still, Laimbeer in Chicago? Dark horse at best.

Rudy Tomjanovich: If his health is better, he’s the only coach with a championship ring (as a coach) that would be on the market, beside Larry Brown. Should have instant respect and has a player’s coach reputation. Would be expensive.

The Ex-Bull Factors (remember, Reinsdorf has a clear preference for “good soldiers” that played for his teams)

Stacy King: A current color commentator for the Bulls television broadcasts, King coached in the CBA. As a Reinsdorf-era Bulls player with coaching experience, you know he’s going to get a look. On the other hand, if you’re a current Bulls player, would you take Stacy King seriously?

Pete Myers: He’s been interim head coach for two separate occassions and an assistant coach for several years. On the other hand, you can argue that being an assistant coach this year is an argument for him not to get promoted.

BJ Armstrong: All-world nice guy, Armstrong’s been hanging around the front office for awhile and they seem to be looking for a place to put him. While he has a “people person” advantage, he’s a little short on coaching experience.

It’s also entirely possible that a candidate emerge clear out of left field. The Bulls have shown a tendency to give people their first coaching job and if someone high profile gets fired, they might be first in line,too. While the team situation suggests a need for an established figure, never discount the ability to save money with new blood.

Tomorrow: Looking at the frontcourt.

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