Chicago Bulls hire Billy Donovan as head coach

The Chicago Bulls have hired Billy Donovan as the team’s head coach.

Donovan, 55, comes to the Bulls having spent the last five seasons manning the sidelines for the Oklahoma City Thunder. While in OKC, his teams amassed a record of 243-157 (.608) and made five consecutive trips to the playoffs. His winning percentage ranks 16th (min. 100 games) in NBA history, and trails only Nick Nurse (.721), Steve Kerr (.709) and Gregg Popovich (.675) among active coaches. He is also one of only four active first-time head coaches in the league (along with Rick Carlisle, Kerr and Erik Spoelstra) to lead their teams to the playoffs in each of their first five seasons as a head coach.

“We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls. The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level,” said Chicago Bulls Executive Vice President – Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas. “We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.”

In 2015-16, his first season with the Thunder, he guided the team to a record of 55-27 (.671), as it claimed the Northwest Division title and advanced to the Western Conference Finals. Donovan’s 55 wins put him in select company, as he became just the third first-year head coach over the previous 15 seasons to win 55 or more games in his first season. On April 5, 2017 at Memphis, the Thunder defeated the Grizzlies 103-100 for Donovan’s 100th career victory in the NBA. With the win, he became the first NBA head coach to win 100 or more games in his first two seasons after coming straight from the collegiate level. He claimed his 200th career coaching win on Oct. 27, 2019 versus Golden State.

“I want to thank Jerry, Michael, Arturas and Marc for the opportunity to coach the Chicago Bulls. I also want to thank them for the time and effort they put into this hiring process. I’m excited to partner with Arturas as we work together on behalf of this historic franchise,” said Billy Donovan.

Prior to his arrival in Oklahoma City, Donovan enjoyed a storied 19-year stint as the head coach at the University of Florida. While in Gainesville, he coached his teams to an overall record of 467-186 (.715). His term with the Gators was highlighted by back-to-back National Championships in 2006, and again in 2007. The consecutive titles marked the first time a men’s program won two straight basketball championships since Duke in 1991 and 1992. He also led the Gators to the Final Four in 2000 (losing in the NCAA Championship Game) and 2014, while making 14 trips to the NCAA Tournament, and two appearances in the NIT.

The Gators enjoyed sustained success under Donovan, as his teams posted 16 straight seasons with 20 or more wins, three campaigns with 30 or more wins, 17 consecutive trips to the postseason and six SEC Championships. In 2014-15, at the age of 49 years old, he became the second-youngest coach in NCAA history (Bobby Knight, 48-years old) to post 500 wins. Before arriving in Gainesville, Donovan’s first experience as a head coach came in 1994 at Marshall University. In two seasons with the Thundering Herd, he posted a record of 35-20 (.636).

Donovan has also enjoyed success with USA Basketball. From 2012-14, he served as the head coach of USAB’s U18 and U19 National Teams. Over that time, his squads compiled a record of 19-0 and claimed three gold medals during national team competition.

A native of Rockville Centre, New York, Donovan played four seasons at Providence (1983-87). His senior season, he averaged 20.6 ppg and helped lead the Friars to the 1987 Final Four. For his efforts, he earned Southeast Regional Most Outstanding Player honors, and also was named to the 1987 All-Big East first team, the 1987 Big East All-Tournament team and was an honorable mention All-American. He was drafted by the Utah Jazz in the third round (68th overall) of the 1987 NBA Draft and played a total of 44 games with the New York Knicks in 1987-88. In 1999, he was inducted into the Providence College Hall of Fame.

Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin forming NASCAR race team, signing Bubba Wallace

NBA legend Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin today announced the formation of a new NASCAR Cup Series race team that will begin competition for the 2021 season. Rising NASCAR star Bubba Wallace has signed a multi-year deal to drive for the yet-to-be-named, single car team.

“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” said Jordan. “The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me. Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”

Jordan will serve as principal owner of the new team with Hamlin as a minority partner while he continues to drive the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Starting a race team has been something that Michael and I have talked about while playing golf together over the years, but the timing or circumstances were never really right,” said the 39-year-old Hamlin. “It just makes sense now to lay the foundation for my racing career after I’m done driving and also help an up-and-coming driver like Bubba take his career to a higher level. Plus, Michael and Bubba can be a powerful voice together, not only in our sport, but also well beyond it.”

With the completed purchase of a NASCAR team charter from Germain Racing, Jordan becomes the first Black majority owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR’s premier series since NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott owned and raced his own car from the 1960s into the early 1970s.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” said Wallace, who is the first African-American driver to race full-time at the NASCAR Cup Series level since Scott. “Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I’m grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”

The name, car number, manufacturer, sponsors and other details for the new team will be announced at a future date.

Will Coby White emerge as primary point guard for Bulls?

The Bulls have Zach LaVine at shooting guard, ready to produce buckets. Who should the main point guard be alongside him in the starting lineup? Here’s the Chicago Sun-Times on one of the team’s prime candidates:

As of Friday, the Bulls players we’re still working out individually, with the full intrasquad scrimmages coming next week.

The main battle when the ball is rolled out? Heck yeah it’s White vs. Kris Dunn.

White feels he will be the starting point guard for this franchise moving forward, while Dunn – a restricted free agent this offseason – is not only fighting for his old starting job back, but a new contract, whether that comes from the Bulls or elsewhere.

White reminded the media of his versatility to play either guard spot, but make no mistake, he also made it very clear what his goal will be whenever the 2020-21 season is set to tip-off.

“I think moving forward my primary position is point guard but I also can play off the ball because I can score and shoot it so well,’’ White said. “So I think that this past year showcased that I can be a point guard but I can also play off the ball at times when I need to.’’

Last season, White averaged 13.2 points and 2.7 assists in 25.8 minutes per game, shooting 39.4% FG and 35.4% from three-point range, while Dunn averaged 7.3 points and 3.4 assists in 24.9 minutes per game, shooting 44.4% FG and 25.9% from three.

A few players the Bulls might like to draft

The Bulls have the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NBA draft. Here’s the Chicago Sun-Times looking at a few of the many possible routes the team might wish to take:

With Otto Porter Jr. expected to opt in at $28.5 million for the 2020-21 season, the small forward will be playing for his next contract. A contract that undoubtedly won’t be with the Bulls.

The depth at small forward has been an issue since Jimmy Butler was traded in 2017, and former first-round pick Chandler Hutchison has shown very little in easing the concerns with that position.

That’s why picking a Deni Avdija or Isaac Okoro would result in the fewest waves to the current roster.

Both are small forwards — obviously with different strengths — and would be groomed to take over when Porter leaves.

And another option:

Wendell Carter Jr. wants more playing time at the four, and the drafting of the 7-foot James Wiseman could give him that.

This year’s offseason may be extremely short by NBA standards. It’ll be a fun ride. And the Bulls have tough decisions to make.

Bulls in no rush to find new head coach

The Bulls need a new head coach, but have no reason to rush the decision. Here’s the Chicago Sun-Times reporting:

Arturas Karnisovas’ timeline remains very much his own… The firing of former head coach Jim Boylen last week hasn’t swayed that, and now landing the No. 4 overall pick in the upcoming October NBA Draft hasn’t changed it.

Karnisovas reiterated that on Thursday.

“Timeline, I said we’re not going to have a timeline,’’ Karnisovas said, when asked about the early stages of the coaching search. “We started already the search but we haven’t interviewed anybody. So that’s where we’re at.’’ …

The Bulls are entering a crossroads of this current rebuild. That means making personnel decisions on Zach LaVine long-term, as well as finding out exactly what they have in the likes of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.

The Bulls finished this season with a 22-43 record, just 11th best in the Eastern conference. They have plenty of young talent but it’s tough to make a firm prediction that the squad as a whole is definitely ready to make a leap up the standings next season. Which is why this coaching search is so extremely important.

Former Bulls coach Jim Boylen speaks

The Bulls a few days ago said goodbye to head coach Jim Boylen. Although no one really knew when the move was coming, it isn’t a surprise that it did happen. Here’s NBC Sports Chicago reporting:

“I loved every minute of working for the Bulls, even the hard ones,” Boylen said in a phone conversation with NBC Sports Chicago. “And I invested myself fully in every aspect of the job.”

Until Friday. That’s when new executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas fired Boylen, ending his five-season stint with the organization that featured three-plus seasons as Fred Hoiberg’s associate head coach. Boylen’s tenure in the big seat concluded with a 39-84 record.

“Artūras was very respectful. I understand why he would want to have his own guy. I really enjoyed getting to know him and (general manager) Marc Eversley,” Boylen said. “I’ve got 13- and 15-year-old girls that miss their dad. So I’m going to do a little carpooling and just prepare myself for the next opportunity.” …

“Jerry and Michael (Reinsdorf) and (former executive vice president) John (Paxson) asked me to bring more discipline to the practice facility and practice floor,” Boylen said. “My marching orders were for us to practice harder, play harder and defend better.”

The Bulls finished this shortened season with a 22-43 record. The team has an intriguing young nucleus, but the team’s only reliable scorer is Zach LaVine. Players like Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. all have talent and potential, but it’ll take time — certainly more than one season — as well as a great coaching staff, to help the squad grow into winners.

Chicago Bulls fire head coach Jim Boylen

Chicago Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas announced today that head coach Jim Boylen has been fired.

MICHAEL REINSDORF: “No one could question Jim’s passion for our team and our organization. We sincerely appreciate his tireless efforts and contributions during his time with the Bulls, and we wish him and his family the very best.”

ARTURAS KARISOVAS: “After doing a comprehensive evaluation and giving the process the time it deserved, I ultimately decided that a fresh approach and evolution in leadership was necessary. This was a very difficult decision, but it is time for our franchise to take that next step as we move in a new direction and era of Chicago Bulls basketball. Jim is a great human being that cares deeply about this organization and the game of basketball. I want to thank him for his professionalism and commitment to the franchise.”

Boylen first came to Chicago as an associate head coach during the 2015-16 season and was named the team’s 23rd head coach on December 3, 2018. During his time at the helm of the Bulls, he compiled an overall record of 39-84 (.317).

A formal coaching search will begin immediately.

Bulls statement on NBA return to play plan

Chicago Bulls President and COO Michael Reinsdorf and Executive Vice President and Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas released the following statements Thursday in response to the NBA’s plan for the rest of the 2019-20 season:

MICHAEL REINSDORF: “It is disappointing that we will not return to play for the 2019-20 season, but ultimately this decision is about more than just one team. We are supportive of Commissioner Adam Silver and the outcome of the vote by the NBA Board of Governors. We thank Adam and his team for their thoughtful work in exploring all available options to come up with a solution that allows the NBA as a league to resume. They spent countless hours having open dialogue with leaders and experts across various industries, as well as team executives, listening and educating themselves to ensure the NBA made the best, safest decision for the league and our players during these unprecedented times.

“We will now shift our focus to continue to build our team under the new leadership of Arturas Karnisovas and our Basketball Operations Department with a focus on the Draft, free agency and offseason development. To our fans and the great city of Chicago: We thank you for your continued support. Keep moving forward with us as we prepare to return to the court for the 2020-21 season.”

ARTURAS KARNISOVAS: “To be included in the plan to restart the 2019-20 season would have been a positive for our players and their development, but we understand the need to compromise and we support the decision made today by the NBA Board of Governors. We are disappointed that our season is over and there won’t be opportunities to see our team or players in game action, but we will be creative in discovering new opportunities to support their growth as we prepare for the next season. Commissioner Adam Silver had the difficult responsibility to develop the best option for the league, and I commend him for the job he has done, particularly given the extraordinary circumstances.”

With Neil Funk soon to retire, Bulls hire Adam Amin as new TV play-by-play broadcaster

In Chicago Bulls news, the team has hired Adam Amin as their new primary TV play-by-play broadcaster.

Amin will succeed Neil Funk, who is retiring his headset when the 2019-20 NBA regular season ends.

Alongside Amin will be Bulls TV analyst Stacey King on the exclusive home of Bulls basketball, NBC Sports Chicago, starting in the 2020-21 season.

“We knew replacing Neil would not be an easy task, but as we got to know Adam over the last two seasons and became even more familiar with his work, he rose to become our top choice,” said team President and COO Michael Reinsdorf. “Adam knows our fans because he grew up a Bulls fan. That was important to us. We wanted to find someone who not only had the talent, but who also understood our history and the role the Bulls play in the lives of our city and our fans. When he and Stacey worked together, we received so much positive feedback that I know our fans are going to really enjoy the work of this new broadcast duo. Adam brings strong credentials to this role, as well as an energy, charisma and innate storytelling ability that help him immediately connect with his audience whether he’s behind a microphone, at an event or on social media. He’s a perfect fit as our new TV play-by-play announcer to call the next generation of Bulls games, and we’re thrilled that he’s joining the Bulls family.”

“Adam is a rising star in the sports broadcasting industry and, even though he will have big shoes to fill in replacing a legend like Neil, he will be an excellent addition to our Bulls telecasts beginning next season,” added Kevin Cross, Senior Vice President/General Manager, NBC Sports Chicago. “Adam is a proud Chicagoan who has a deep understanding of the team’s history and the enormous impact they have on their local, national and global fan base. We look forward to having Adam on our team.”

“The experience of filling in for Mr. Funk gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to work with such an exceptional group of professionals inside the Bulls organization and NBC Sports Chicago,” said Amin. “To have the privilege of joining the Chicago Bulls broadcast team is way beyond a dream coming true. The little kid sitting on the floor of his parents’ basement watching Bulls games could never have imagined this. I am absolutely ecstatic and truly grateful to the organization for trusting me with this opportunity.”

Amin is starting his first season as a play-by-play announcer for FOX Sports’ NFL and MLB coverage, and he will continue in this role while serving as the lead TV voice for the Bulls. For Bulls games that Amin is absent, a substitute Bulls play-by-play announcer will be assigned.

Before joining FOX, Amin spent nine years at ESPN where he covered a multitude of high-profile sports and events across multiple mediums.

Three Bulls players who could benefit from the NBA resuming the 2019-20 season

NBA play has been on hold since mid March. In the next week or two, we could get word on if the 2019-20 season will resume, possibly by late July. Here’s the Chicago Sun-Times reporting on some Bulls players who might benefit from regular season play resuming, as opposed to being cancelled:

Three Bulls that would most benefit from a restart:

1. Coby White — The rookie is unbeaten as the starting point guard, earning the nod against Cleveland just before the coronavirus shutdown hit the NBA. Five to 10 more games could at least show the new front office that White does have solid enough point guard skills that they could look at a different position when the draft does take place.

2. Lauri Markkanen — Last we left the 7-foot enigma, he was unhappy with the current structure of his own organization. That was reported by multiple media outlets, including the Sun-Times. A big part of that structure has changed in the front office, however, and more could be on the way with the coaching staff.

3. Otto Porter Jr. — The veteran forward makes the Bulls better when he plays. The record and stats back that up. The problem is he has seldom played since being acquired last season, and needs to start showing some reliability.

The Bulls were nowhere near a playoff team this season. But one idea being floated around is a play-in tournament that might give all 30 squads a shot at the postseason.