Bernstein: The Annotated Jim Boylen

After his team collapsed in a loss Tuesday, Boylen's comments were real doozies.

Dan Bernstein
November 06, 2019 - 2:22 pm
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(670 The Score) Let's figure out what any of this means, shall we? My head his still spinning from the Bulls' epic collapse in the fourth quarter of a 118-112 loss against the Lakers on Tuesday night, a stretch of about four minutes to start the period that saw coach Jim Boylen's team go from a 93-80 advantage to trailing 96-93, losing a lead it would never regain.

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Yes, the majority of that 16-0 run by the Lakers came against a reserve Bulls unit that comprised Chandler Hutchison, Coby White, Thaddeus Young, Kris Dunn and Luke Kornet, and at no time did Boylen think to call a timeout or reinsert some of his starters to mitigate the damage being done. And even worse than what occurred was how certain Boylen was that his utter abdication of his coaching responsibility was somehow, after the fact, the right move to have made.

 

We have to examine his explanation as closely as possible to see if we're missing anything. Boylen was asked if he should have been quicker to get his starters back in.

"Nope."

Correct answer would be "yup." He should've used some of the players on his team who are better at basketball to increase the Bulls' chance of winning the game in which they were playing. So why does he think this?

"Because I'm going to develop this bench, and I'm going to develop this team."

Forget the stuff I mentioned about "winning the game," I guess.

"I've got 15 guys to develop. I'm going to play them in those moments, and they are going to learn to play winning basketball."

Apparently without being coached on how to actually do so, and it's just going to happen by some kind of magic or luck. And Boylen is telling us he again won't use his better players in important moments, even though that's the opposite of what one is supposed to do. By his logic, he also could've been developing others among that 15 who are more talented and more important.

"I've never yanked guys, I've never done that."

Boylen has yanked guys, notably during the worst loss in the history of the franchise that took place last Dec. 8, when the Bulls lost 133-77 to the Celtics. That night Boylen employed not one but two full five-man substitutions for punitive effect. Perhaps he thinks we forgot.

And here's his explanation for not calling a timeout at any point while the Bulls were getting their doors blown off.

"Because we got to figure it out. We got to learn. We got to settle down. I want to see somebody take control and take over the thing."

You are allowed to stop play and huddle up for just that purpose, to figure it out. You can get out a whiteboard and redeploy your defense, settle your team down and blunt the opponent's wave of energy. You know who takes control at that point of an NBA game? A responsible and aware coach.

"I had four (timeouts), I think. I could have used one and I didn't. It was on my heart. It was on my mind."

What the hell does that even mean, on your heart? Call the damn timeout, and stop being so weird. And offering that he thinks he knows he had four timeouts comes off as some kind of desperate attempt to prove he understands at least one trivial detail after emerging from the fog.

"Timeouts have nothing to do with a free-throw line box-out. Timeouts got nothing to do with moving it to the next guy. It doesn't have anything to do with it."

If that's true, then why call one ever? Timeouts have everything to do with fine points and reminders, subtle changes in strategy and adapting to what's unfolding. That's why you keep track of how many you have, because smart coaches value them as critical resources in being able to communicate effectively with players and control the flow of a game. This, again, is just wrong. So much of this is just so wrong and bad, all continually being laid bare.

And what we'll get now from Boylen is more insistence on some vague concept of toughness and physicality, more blaming the players for not trying hard enough or being sufficiently prepared and more references to dedication to the team and the city, spirit and soul.

Players would prefer to be coached instead of exhorted, instructed rather than merely cheered on. They clearly know something's not right, as it already can be heard in both words and tone across the locker room.

But it's what the Bulls want, and it's what they have. All we can do is keep trying to figure out why.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.