Out of each of the head coaching job openings in the Central Division right now, do the Chicago Bulls have more to offer?
As of the afternoon of Sep. 2, almost half of the teams in the Central Division have job openings at head coach. If the Cleveland Cavaliers hadn’t already handed former associate head coach JB Bickerstaff the full head coaching job after John Beilein was let go, then more than half of the teams in this division would have an opening at the position. The other two that have head coach openings in the Central Division at the moment are the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers.
After four years at the helm in Indy, the Pacers elected to part ways with now former head coach Nate McMillan. While McMillan did take the Pacers to the playoffs for four straight years (and they landed a four seed in the bubble this season), he never once got them past the first round. It seemed like the final straw was the Pacers getting swept by former Bull Jimmy Butler and the five-seed Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
What’s even weirder about the Pacers letting go of McMillan at the time they did was the fact that he had signed a contract extension just two weeks prior to departing from the organization.
But the lack of playoff success is hard to argue with for why the Pacers let go of McMillan.
On the Bulls side of the spectrum, there was much less questioning of their decision back on Aug. 14 to let go of former head coach Jim Boylen. After two years at the helm with the Bulls, Boylen posted a record of 39-84. He never once got the Bulls into the playoffs, and led them to a record of 22-43 to wrap up their run for the 2019-20 season.
Parting ways with Boylen was a very welcome sight for the Bulls fan base, and coincided nicely with the much-needed front office changes that were made back in spring.
But the Bulls and Pacers now have two of the more than three head coach openings that currently exist around the NBA. In the Eastern Conference alone, the New York Knicks just hired former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. And the Brooklyn Nets also have a head coach opening after letting go of Kenny Atkinson earlier this year.
Since there’s a plethora of head coaching jobs open around the NBA right now, the Bulls need to really find the right candidate early in their search if at all possible. Recently hired executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas looks like he will take his time with this search, and with good reason, but finding the right candidates early could be key.
Say a coaching candidate had their choice of these two job openings right now in the Central Division, which would they want to take?
The Bulls and Pacers are two very different organizations that have very different roster constructions and public images around the NBA at this moment. The Pacers do have a win roster that could potentially make some noise now in the East, at least once Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis get back to full health.
But the Pacers are the smaller market team with less name brand recognition both nationally and globally. Ideally if the Bulls could start to change their poor reputation and name brand around the NBA starting this offseason, then their job would have more potential than that of the Pacers.
The Bulls also have the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, which would give a newly hired head coach another young and talented player to work with. Indy doesn’t have as strong of a young core as the Bulls do with the likes of shooting guard Zach LaVine, power forward Lauri Markkanen, point guard Coby White, center Wendell Carter Jr., etc. in the fold.
One good offseason for the Bulls, along with the right coaching hire, could put them right back in playoff contention for a lower seed as soon as next season. If they get on the right track during the 2020-21 campaign, then they could too be in a good position to land a big name free agent during that coveted 2021 cycle.
All in all, picking apart which of these jobs is better really comes down to the style of candidate that each team is looking into. The Pacers could take on a more proven veteran head coach, that really wants to win now. Meanwhile, a candidate like former Nets head coach Atkinson or Philadelphia 76ers lead assistant Ime Udoka might want to build something in a big market with this young core over the long haul.
The opportunity to build something special in a big market is a door that is open with the Bulls right now. And that’s not an opportunity that the Pacers job really presents.
Head coach openings that exist around the NBA right now include that of the Nets, Bulls, Pacers, and New Orleans Pelicans. The Houston Rockets could soon join that list too if current head coach Mike D’Antoni doesn’t help that team catch fire soon and at least get them past the stingy Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs this year.