Chicago Bulls: Ime Udoka coach in waiting to replace Jim Boylen?

Ime Udoka (Photo by Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images)
Ime Udoka (Photo by Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images) /

Recent reports hold that the Chicago Bulls could be playing the long game in a potential coaching search to replace current head coach Jim Boylen.

The NBA’s approved restart plan from last week for 22 of the top teams in both conferences to compete at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL, starting on July 31 will not include the Chicago Bulls. Thus the Bulls can officially start planning for the 2020 offseason as they will not be playing in anymore meaningful games before the 2020-21 season arrives.

Possibly the biggest looming question mark heading into the 2020 offseason for the Bulls is the hot seat of current head coach Jim Boylen. According to a report from K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago on June 6, the Bulls newly hired lead voice in the front, Arturas Karnisovas, won’t be making any quick decisions on what to do about the coaching situation.

Here’s what the piece from Johnson at NBC Sports Chicago had to say on the matter.

"“We want to spend time internally to assure that we are thorough in our appraisals. Our intention was to return to play at some point and have the opportunity to make informed decisions. There are several unprecedented circumstances beyond our control. We have been limited in certain obvious ways. So our objective is to use this time in innovative ways to create opportunities for our players and coaches to encourage development,” Karnisovas said. “I know that you are anxious for me to comment definitively on our future of the Chicago Bulls. I understand that anticipation. That said, I take pride in being deliberate and thoughtful in my decision-making and take the weight of my decisions seriously. I’m not inclined to make evaluations prematurely to satisfy our excitement to move this team forward. I deeply respect and value the role of media, and I look forward to getting to know you all, as I believe we share a passion to see success of Chicago sports franchises.”"

He added with some apparent sympathy for the difficulty in holding a head coaching job in a big market with traditional success like Chicago.

"“Coaching in the league is very difficult. To make a decision about coaching is really hard. It’s probably the hardest thing for executives,” Karnisovas said. “So I look at a lot of aspects. I’ve had numerous conversations. That said, I’d like to be in a building, to be in practices, to be around the coaching staff in meetings. We’re looking forward to getting in the video room together, analyze the games, to watch games together.“Talking to players and coaches, obviously everyone is disappointed with the results last year. They (the Bulls) definitely underperformed. Watching games, I’m excited to watch because there’s a lot of talent on this team. In order for me to keep players and coaches accountable, I have to have personal relationships with them. That’s what I need to cultivate. That’s my objective this offseason.”"

However, there are conflicting words coming out of the Bulls camp. According to a report from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times on June 5, there are sources saying that the Philadelphia 76ers lead assistant Ime Udoka is in the lead if a potential head coaching search begins this offseason to replace Boylen.

Here’s what the piece from the Sun-Times had to say on this subject.

"After the NBA board of governors voted to move forward with a 22-team restart and player representatives approved it Friday, the Bulls’ season officially has come to an end. But the business of basketball has to continue.Sources have told the Sun-Times that 76ers assistant Ime Udoka is the front-runner to become the Bulls’ new coach, with Raptors assistant — and former Bulls assistant — Adrian Griffin also in the picture."

Take the words from the Sun-Times with a grain of salt since both that report from Cowley and NBC Sports Chicago have the commonality that Karnisovas will play the long game with the head coaching situation. It’s good that there is something coming out of the Bulls camp regarding potential replacements for Boylen. But it likely won’t happen anytime soon.

However, it does look as if there is some level of traction between Udoka and the Bulls. The current Sixers assistant coach and former San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers forward Udoka would bring a lot of excitement and promise to the table in the fourth year of the rebuild. He was hired to be the Sixers lead assistant coach ahead of the start of the 2019-20 regular season.

And Udoka is also a former assistant coach under the legendary Gregg Popovich with the Spurs. He was an accomplished Spurs assistant coach on staff from 2012-2019.

As one of the younger potential head coaching options that the Bulls could pursue, Udoka could be a good long-term candidate. He’s just 42 years old and a fast rising star in the NBA coaching ranks. He won one NBA Championship with the Spurs, back in 2013-14, and saw numerous other playoff appearances in San Antonio and now likely in Philly.

Udoka is a very solid coaching candidate that the Bulls could pursue. The other name that was mentioned in the piece from the Sun-Times as a potential Boylen replacement is the former Bulls and current Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin.

Next. 3 burning questions for Bulls 2020 offseason. dark

Boylen holds a career record of 39-84 as the Bulls head coach since taking over as interim last season. He replaced former Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg after a 5-19 start to the 2018-19 regular season, but hasn’t found much more success than the current Nebraska Cornhuskers HC.