In a previous article, Billy Donovan‘s first year with the Chicago Bulls was evaluated. That brought about the idea to rank the four head coaches that the Chicago Bulls have had in the last decade. A lot of fans would have to agree on the ranking of these coaches, but it is time to take a deeper look into all of them.
#4 Jim Boylen
Coming from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree, there was some hope behind Boylen. A lot believed he could bring that San Antonio Spurs culture to the Bulls. That clearly was not the case. Boylen was a coach that was stuck in the 1980s. During one of his first practices, he made the team run suicides for the majority of the time they had. These are professional athletes and grown men who are some of the greatest athletes in the world, but Boylen treats them as if they are some high school team.
His post-game interviews were almost always a must-watch to see if he would say something so outrageous. On November 20, 2019, the Bulls were beating the Lakers by 13 going into the fourth quarter. The Lakers went on a 16-0 running facing off against all bench players. He refused to call a timeout or make any substitutions during this time and this move ultimately cost the team the game. After the game, he was asked if he regretted not putting his starters in earlier. He said “Nope, because I’m going to develop this bench and I’m going to develop this team. I’ve got 15 guys to develop.”
This was just one of the many bizarre philosophies and ideals that he had but is no doubt one of the worst head coaches in Bulls History.
#3 Fred Hoiberg
Hoiberg was brought in after his successful career at Iowa State. He was supposed to revitalize the Bulls’ offense. He was supposed to have them running and gunning and scoring at will. This never came tofruition. Hoiberg coached three full seasons before being fired 24 games into his fourth season in the 2018-2019 season. He was not a terrible coach, he just did not live up to expectations.
There is nothing very notable about his tenure. The most prominent thing that happened was the 2016-2017 playoffs. The eighth-seeded Bulls were taking on the first-seeded Celtics. They took them to six games and if it were not for an injury to Rajon Rondo, the Bulls might have had a shot to take down the one seed. This was an exciting series, but it is all Hoiberg really achieved during his time.
#2 Billy Donovan
Donovan’s first year with the Chicago Bulls has been previously discussed at length. He has found great success at the college level and then regular-season success with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is yet to have any real postseason success, but the Bulls need to worry about getting to the postseason first.
The changes that Donovan has made to how the Bulls run things are very encouraging. He has transformed how they play after what Boylen implemented last year. In the past, he has received some criticism for being too much of a players’ coach, but that is exactly what is needed for most NBA teams. In the NBA, players win the games. A superstar can carry a team to a championship. Donovan understands his place as a head coach and that is important in the NBA today.
#1 Tom Thibodeau
Thibodeau was the head coach of the Bulls for five seasons. In 2010-2011 he earned the award of Coach of the Year. This was after a 62-20 season in which Derrick Rose became the youngest MVP ever. Thibodeau never had a season with the Bulls where he missed the playoffs. He was known for his intense defensive schemes. The Bulls had defenders such as Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, but besides that, there were not many extraordinary pieces at that end of the court. Despite this, Thibodeau was able to field a top 11 defense, in terms of defensive rating, every season. This includes two seasons with the number one rated defense.
Thibodeau was one of the best coaches in the league. The downfall came from his relationship with the front office. Thibodeau was known for playing his stars the most minutes of anyone in the league. In three of his five seasons as head coach, he had a player lead the league in minutes. Twice it was Luol Deng and once it was Jimmy Butler. This frustrated the front office. The front office had made some requests to rest players a little longer after injury, but Thibodeau refused to listen. These issues combined with the fact that the Bulls went all these years without making a finals appearance led to his firing that shocked the entire fanbase.
Thibodeau was one the most beloved figures in Chicago and is by far the greatest coach of the Chicago Bulls in the last decade.