The Chicago Bulls have cleaned house and brought in a new Executive VP of Basketball Operations in Arturas Karnisovas and General Manager in Marc Eversley. So it was fair to say they would want to bring in their own head coach and Jim Boylen was likely going to lose his job. Friday morning that became a reality.
After a 39-84 record and not seeing eye to eye with the players it was fair to say Boylen was on the hot seat this offseason. Now that the Chicago Bulls season has been done for a couple of months it is better now than never to reevaluate the head coaching position and start looking at candidates. The New York Knicks have already interviewed candidates and hired a new head coach before the end of the NBA restart.
Here are some of the candidates to replace Boylen in Chicago according to Adrain Wojnarowski of ESPN and Shams Charania of the Athletic.
After getting seemingly blindsided by the Brooklyn Nets, Atkinson is one of the top head coaching candidates on the market right now. Before being getting the Brooklyn job, Atkinson was an assistant to two-time coach of the year Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta. He rebuilt and developed the Nets into a playoff team without any major assets or draft picks. In 2018-19 he took a team made up of afterthoughts and role players led by once considered a bust D’Angelo Russell to the playoffs as the sixth seed in the East with a 42-40 record. Atkinson deserves a lot of credit for developing Russell into the player he is today. When he came to Brooklyn he was a once highly regarded player looking for a fresh start and he left an All-Star.
The Chicago Bulls have so many potential All-Stars on their roster that Atkinson would have his pick of the litter when it came to who he can develop into a superstar. Zach Lavine is the most obvious candidate to take a step to the next level and the best player on the team. Lavine has been flirting will All-Star status for a couple of seasons now and could reach that next year if Atkinson helps him like he did Russell. Lauri Markkanen could be the next breakout candidate for Chicago. He has shown flashes at times of being elite and at age 23 he can take the next step in his development and become a potential All-Star. Wendall Carter Jr. and Coby White are extremely young players with bright futures, but under Atkinson that future can come a lot quicker and they can become serious threats to opposing teams.
The one candidate that Woj or Shams did not mention that could become the frontrunner for the Bulls head coaching job is Chris Fleming. He has been an assistant for Boylen’s staff in Chicago for the past two seasons. His coaching career started in Denver in 2015 as an assistant to Mike Malone in his first year as a head coach. The following season Fleming became Kenny Atkinson’s assistant in Brooklyn. His experience with Atkinson might actually get Atkinson the job if he gives a good recommendation. Fleming’s resume isn’t filled with NBA experience but he has had a lot of success coaching in Europe, more specifically Germany.
Many consider Fleming to be one of the top assistant coaches in the league. So he is sure to get a lot of attention this offseason. The Knicks already considered Fleming for their job. It is up to the Bulls to decide whether they really want to keep Fleming in house or let some other team get a shot at him.
Adrian Griffin has been an assistant coach for a couple different teams throughout his career. But Chicago might be the best opportunity he had to become a head coach. Griffin first became an assistant coach for Scott Skiles in Milwaukee for two seasons before become Tom Thibodeau’s in Chicago from 2010-2015. It is fair to say that Thibodeau is the last stable and great coach the Bulls have had and Griffin was his top assistant. Later Griffin reunited with Skiles in Orlando, was a part of Billy Donovan’s staff in Oklahoma City, and most recently has been a part of Nick Nurse’s staff in Toronto. Griffin was a part of the coaching staff that led the Raptors to a Championship over the Golden State Warriors last season. Toronto’s coaching staff was solidified as one of the best in the league after clinching to two seed in the East after losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in free agency. The Raptors are still considered a title favorite and his experience in Toronto could give him the boost to get the Bulls job.
On top of his coaching experience in the city, Griffin has also spent five seasons as a player with the Chicago Bulls. Already knowing the city and what it takes to have success here could go a long way for Griffin. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Griffin emerge as the favorite to land the job.
Darvin Ham may not be a household name, but because who he has aligned himself with for the past seven seasons may earn him a head coaching job this season. Ham started his career on the Lakers coaching staff with head coaches Mike Brown, Bernie Bickerstaff, and Mike D’Antoni between 2011-13. But since 2013, Ham has been an assistant for Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta and Milwaukee. The NBA is a copycat league and top assistant from elite teams get poached all the time by teams in need of head coaches because they want to know what is making that team so successful. Ham could be another example of that.
Before he got into coaching Ham was in the NBA as a player for 1996-2005. It also is big to note that teams could be looking to get as many pieces familiar with Giannis Antetokounmpo on their payroll as possible with impending free agency in 2021. This could make Ham a popular name for teams looking for head coaches.
Stephen Silas is the son of long time NBA head coach Paul Silas. In 2000 he became the youngest assistant coach in NBA history under his dad with the Charlotte Hornets. He later followed his dad to Cleveland from 2003-2005. He later joined all time great head coach Don Nelson’s staff in Golden State from 2005-10. Then for the next eight seasons he joined the Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats staff. Since 2018 Silas has been a member of Rick Carlisle’s staff with the Dallas Mavericks.
Silas has a deep background being an assistant coach or team scout at the NBA level for 20 years. He has also served some amazing staffs. Silas has seemingly seen it all. His resume might be to deep for the Bulls to pass up.
Ime Udoka seems to be the next Popovich disciple waiting for his opportunity to become an NBA head coach. Udoka played professional basketball for 13 seasons including three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. Right after his playing career ended, Udoka became a member of Popovich and the Spur’s coaching staff. He was in San Antonio from 2012-2019 and was a part of the 2014 Championship team. This past season, Udoka became the lead assistant to another former Spurs head coach Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Udoka will be receiving a lot of attention this offseason as a head coaching candidate, including from his current team the 76ers who could replace Brett Brown this offseason. Udoka is a veteran assistant coach who has a lot of experience on winning teams the Bulls would be foolish to not take a long look at an accomplished coach like him as a potential option.
Wes Unseld Jr.
Wes Unseld Jr. is the son of Hall of Famer Wes Unseld. But Unseld Jr. could create his own legacy this coming season if he gets the Chicago Bulls head coaching job. He was an assistant for Eddie Jordan and the late Flip Saunders in Washington from 2005-2011. The following season he was a member of Mark Jacksons staff in Golden State. Then from 2012-2015 Unseld Jr. was on Jacque Vaughn’s staff in Orlando. Since then he has been a part of Mike Malone’s coaching staff in Denver. Just like Unseld Jr., Arturas Karnisovas who is selecting the next head coach for the team is from the Denver Nuggets organization.
One thing Denver has been able to do extremely well is develop young talent really quickly. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., Nikola Jokic, and Bol Bol are all Nuggets who showed star potential early in their careers. Chicago has so much young talent if Unseld Jr. can do onto them what he and Malone did in Denver and create multiple young stars in their lineup, there aren’t many more perfect matches for the head coaching position.
David Vanterpool started his NBA assistant coaching career in 2012 with the Portland Trailblazers, but before that he spent six seasons being an assistant coach overseas. During his time in Portland Vanterpool was very well liked by the coaches and players why spent time with him there. This past season he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Vanterpool may not have a long resume like some of these other candidates. He barely has any experience playing in the NBA, he played a majority of his career overseas. But if everyone from the teams he has coached for gloats about him, the Bulls may have to jump on Vanterpool early before he really becomes a household name.