Bulls players react to firing of coach Fred Hoiberg

ByMalika Andrews ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS -- Justin Holiday could feel -- or rather hear -- the coaching change during the Chicago Bulls' 96-90 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.

"Loud," Justin Holiday said, smiling, when asked to describe Jim Boylen's coaching style. "You could hear Jim on both ends of the floor."

Boylen was promoted from associate head coach on Monday after Fred Hoiberg was dismissed. In the 24 hours since then, Boylen has led one practice, one shootaround and coached one game as the Bulls players have began to digest the change.

"It's tough," Zach LaVine said after shootaround on Tuesday morning. "I texted [Hoiberg] right afterward and let him know that I appreciated him and thanks for all the hard work. Because at the end of the day, Fred is a great dude and you respect that.

"You know he did a good job here. He was under some circumstances that he can't control."

After the loss in Indiana, the Bulls (5-20) have lost seven consecutive games and 11 of their past 12. John Paxson, the Bulls' president of basketball operations, said the team fired Hoiberg not because they were struggling to win while missing three starting players but because of what Paxson described as a lack of "competitive spirit."

Boylen, Paxson said, will "bring a strong voice to our locker room."

After Tuesday's loss, Boylen said that he would like to see the team's physicality and conditioning improve.

"The message is that you have to make a play at the end," Boylen said after the game. "Whatever that play is, a big rebound, a big stop, a loose ball. We didn't do that. That's the message."

Lauri Markkanen, who made his first start of the season Tuesday night, said he "loved" playing for Hoiberg but had pause when asked whether Hoiberg had maintained control of the locker room.

"It's hard to say," Markkanen said. "That's a hard question."

When pressed, Markkanen said players in the locker room respected Hoiberg.

"I think so," Markkanen said. "But, of course, it's different. I'm used to a more laid-back coach. I don't know if there's one right type of coach."

Boylen has said he's a "more passionate in-game coach" than Hoiberg and he is already looking to make his mark. Throughout 48 minutes in Indianapolis, Boylen didn't sit down. He clapped when Wendell Carter Jr. blocked Bogdon Bogdanovic and animatedly thrust his fist into the air when Markkanen hit a 3-pointer.

Boylen said he spent Monday night meeting individually with players in their hotel rooms. He came to each meeting armed with a list -- compiled with his assistant coaches -- of what each player was doing well and how they could improve.

Among the tweaks Boylen has already made, he moved Jabari Parker out of the starting lineup. Parker will come off the bench behind Markkanen at forward, now that Markkanen has returned from an elbow injury. Under Hoiberg, the Bulls experimented with Parker at small forward briefly but he struggled. Justin Holiday will continue to start at small forward.

Boylen has also shuffled the Bulls' assistant coaching staff. Assistant coach Nate Loenser and director of player development Shawn Respert have both been elevated to the bench, with Respert joining the staff as an assistant coach. After starting the season with the Bulls' G League affiliate, Dean Cooper has been added to Boylen's staff, while assistant coach Randy Brown has resigned his post after being offered an opportunity to remain on staff.

LaVine described Boylen as an "old-school coach" and a "tough-minded dude."

"We appreciate him," LaVine said of Hoiberg. "And you know, we still have a job to do."

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