Not only did Bulls interim head coach Jim Boylan get a win in his first game on Friday night, he also got United Center fans a hard-earned complimentary Big Mac as Chicago topped 100 points in its defeat of the Bucks. Milwaukee head coach Larry Krystkowiak had as much to do with the free burgers as anyone; his ejection late in the fourth quarter gave Chicago a pair of free throws and just enough breathing room to secure the Bulls’ first win following three lopsided losses.
No offense to Boylan, who manned the bench as an assistant under the departed Scott Skiles, but I wonder how any of this coaching nonsense will actually have an impact on the Bulls. Why fire Skiles and then replace him with his right-hand man, a guy who coached under Skiles in both Phoenix and Chicago? By most accounts, they share similar coaching philosophies, which is not to say one is a carbon copy of the other, but certainly they share enough coaching DNA to ensure some continuity. It would seem continuity is not something a general manager looks for when making a head coaching change. The point is to shake things up.
That’s precisely what GM John Paxson hasn’t been so quick to do as of the past year. Look no further than his inability to execute his own damn game plan — build a solid nucleus of young talent then trade for the go-to guy with the killer instinct. We’re still waiting for that stud to arrive, so with this latest move Paxson has again avoided the obvious conclusion. Matter of fact, Paxson’s lack of desire to stray too far from the tree in selecting a coach to finish out the season only reinforces his inability to grow a pair. (What he’s grown is awfully shy since dumping Tyson Chandler and signing Ben Wallace, which was an iffy proposition at the time and today looks like a poor decision.) It’s as if Paxson is saying, “We’re not certain it’s the coach that was the problem. So before installing a new coach, we’re going to see how the players react to a familiar coach. If nothing else, this should take the heat off me for a month or two.”
I guess we should just enjoy our Big Macs and see if our interim coach can once again get a group of overachievers to overachieve. Or maybe we should give Mickey D’s and Paxson the middle finger? Skiles was an inconsistent coach, but so are all but a few NBA coaches that aren’t blessed with at least a pair of All-Stars. He held his players accountable and constantly toyed with his rotations to try to get the best results. That tendency and the results it produced as Skiles shifted rotations almost nightly showed off the fact that Paxson has assembled a roster with glaring redundancy and even more glaring needs. In the market for an athletic big man with questionable basketball skills? Well, take your pick! Looking for a smallish guard that is a streaky or just plain suspect shooter? You’re in luck! But if your desire is a crunch-time scoring threat that will show up each and every night, then I’m afraid you’re going to come away empty handed.
For the Bulls, their woes are a matter of the personnel’s talent level and not the style of coaching. At the NBA level a coach’s impact is less significant than in college, so to some degree Skiles’ dismissal can be excused; but it shouldn’t be accepted as a necessary or even prudent move. If Boylan fixes the team’s leaky transition defense and can somehow inspire Luol Deng to play like the team’s best player night in and night out, then he may just make the move worthwhile, or at least buy Paxson enough time to do the right thing and pull the trigger on a smart trade.