Bulls talk to coach Jim Boylen after players-only meeting

ByMalika Andrews ESPN logo
Monday, December 10, 2018

CHICAGO -- New Chicago Bulls coach Jim Boylen believes he has an organizational mandate to institute what he called a "shock and awe" campaign in the early days of his tenure.

Just three games into his stint, he has benched starters for long stretches, held long practices and chastised the team's effort after brutal losses.

Some Bulls players pushed back on Boylen's aggressive coaching style. After suffering the worst loss in franchise history Saturday night, Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday led a two-hour, players-only meeting in lieu of the practice Boylen had planned for the team Sunday.

After the players met, Boylen and his coaching staff joined them for another meeting that rookie Wendell Carter Jr. said was the players coming to coaches "as men and [talking] to them about how we felt."

Boylen pushed back on the players' insistence that they had initiated a meeting.

"Our meeting is what I thought we needed," Boylen said.

"We were very, very honest with one another; very direct," Carter said.

In contrast to predecessor Fred Hoiberg, Boylen has shown himself to be demonstrative, edgy and unafraid of confrontation. The dynamic between Hoiberg and Boylen, who had been the Bulls' associate head coach, had been good cop/bad cop.

"We're still learning about each other," Boylen said. "I've moved over the 18 inches [from one chair on the bench to the next]. They're still learning how I want it. There's been a little shock and awe here in the last seven days. And there's an adjustment to that."

Team president John Paxson has committed to Boylen beyond this season, and that pledge appears to have given Boylen more latitude to be perhaps more aggressive.

Paxson and general manager Gar Forman are fully supportive of Boylen's hard-driving changes with the Bulls, including Sunday's meeting; the longer, harder practices; and the more confrontational, intense style. Paxson and Forman attended the meetings with players Sunday morning at the practice facility.

Boylen has been adamant in his message that he won't be negotiating the Bulls players' workload, a league source told ESPN. Some players had been skeptical of Boylen holding a long practice Sunday, but Boylen's plan was to have young players do some on-court work while veterans lifted weights.

A source said that Boylen was aware Saturday that some players were preparing to bypass Sunday's practice. He addressed it with players Sunday morning.

After the Boston Celtics went up 13-0 against the Bulls on Saturday night, Boylen pulled all five starters. He pulled the entire group again midway through the quarter, and the starting unit remained on the bench for the final 21 minutes of Chicago's 133-77 loss. After the game, Boylen explained he didn't like the effort he was seeing on the court and wanted to see whether the reserve group could "right the ship."

While new to the head-coaching seat, Boylen has been a part of the Bulls' coaching staff since 2015. That familiarity makes it easier for him to challenge and criticize his players. In Sunday's meetings, players sought a better understanding of Boylen's public comments disparaging their effort and conditioning.

"We understand what he says in the media, and you can take it good or bad," LaVine said. "But I think the main thing is how we're going to respond to it tomorrow."

Chicago, which has lost eight of its past nine games, hosts the Sacramento Kings on Monday night in what will be the third game of a four-game homestand for the Bulls.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to this report.

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