It shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise that the Chicago Bulls fired head coach Jim Boylen after two substandard seasons on the bench.
Boylen’s Bulls posted a 22-43 record during the truncated 2019-20 NBA season. He was seemingly in a rift with star wing Zach LaVine throughout the coach’s two-year run in the Windy City.
With that said, Chicago was able to pull off a major hire on Tuesday. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Chicago has replaced Boylen with respected former Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan.
It was absolutely shocking to hear that Donovan and the Thunder mutually agreed to part ways following a surprising 2019-20 season that saw him lead the organization to a 44-28 record and a playoff appearance. The 55-year-old Donovan remains one of the most-respected basketball minds and is a tremendous hire. Here’s why.
Billy Donovan’s Thunder team surprised everyone in 2019-20
- Paul George’s decision to request a trade ahead of this past regular season caught a lot of people by surprise. It ultimately led to Thunder general manager Sam Presti trading Russell Westbrook, seemingly starting a rebuild in the process.
- That did not come to fruition. Relying on veterans such as Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari as well as a young group headed by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City finished this past regular season 16 games over .500 and as the fifth seed in the Western Conference.
- Heading into the playoffs in Orlando, the Thunder took a more talented and veteran-laden Rockets squad to the brink of elimination in the first round.
It’s not just that Donovan had success with a mix of young players and veterans this past season. It’s about a whole lot more than that when determining the Bulls hit a home run with this hire.
Billy Donovan has worked with some big egos
- Back in 2015-16, the former Florida head coach led Oklahoma City to a 55-27 record before the team blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors. That team included big personalites, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
- Once Durant moved on from the Thunder, Oklahoma City would go on to acquire Paul George in a blockbuster trade with the Indiana Pacers. While the George-Westbrook pairing did not net a title, it proved that Donovan can get along with some of the biggest superstars the NBA has to offer while offering coaching to youngsters.
Chicago Bulls roster fits well with what Billy Donovan does
- Whether it was Durant or George in Oklahoma City, Donovan has worked with elite-level wings in the past. It’s in this that bringing him in to help up the game of Zach LaVine makes a lot of sense.
- It also must be noted that Donovan also worked with what were then future NBA players Mike Miller, David Lee, Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Chandler Parsons and Bradley Beal during a dominating run with the Gators in college.
- This should help the veteran coach, perhaps, get the most out of former lottery pick Wendell Carter Jr. as the big man enters his third season in the NBA. That doesn’t even take into account LaVine at the wing.
Bottom line: Billy Donovan is the perfect hire for the Bulls
Fresh off a third consecutive season without a playoff appearance, the Chicago Bulls needed to make a home run with this hire. New general manager Marc Eversley set forth to do just that.
In the process, it appears that Chicago beat out a more attractive potential option in that of the Philadelphia 76ers following their decision to fire Brett Brown.
We have no idea if this pairing will work. It could be akin to fitting a square peg into a round hole. That’s the nature of the beast in today’s NBA.
What we do know is that Chicago went for the home run and hit it out of the park. This could help the long-downtrodden franchise become relevant on the broader NBA stage once again.