Unfortunately, I believe that the Chicago Bulls haven’t had a real difference-making coach since the departure of Tom Thibodeau back in 2015. Now it’s going to be the ninth season since Chicago decided to let him go, and their luck has only taken a turn for the worse. It’s very hard to find a head coach of that caliber in the league today, since there are so very few of them. I’d put maybe three or four at the level, at best.
Right now, the Bulls are at a crossroads, and making the right coaching decision could be crucial. I’ve come up with a couple of candidates, who could potentially replace Billy Donovan as a head coach.
Before I start, I want to say, that I think Billy Donovan has done an okay job as the Bulls head coach. But he has his limitations. I’m not sure, that he could be a game-changer for the franchise. He’s good in the regular season, but in the playoffs, when coaching comes up front, he hadn’t truly delivered.
That’s why I’d like to introduce Sarunas Jasikevicius. As the former coach of FC Barcelona, Jasikevicius has been linked to the Raptors in 2018 and to the Grizzlies this offseason, but nothing has materialized quite yet. This is why I believe the Bulls would be wise to jump and front before Sarunas has a big breakout in the NBA.
As a player, he is extremely accomplished. He played for the best coaches in Europe and took that knowledge to the sidelines after he retired. His teams play with clear ideas of what they want to achieve. Let’s dig deeper into those principles.
On offense, he doesn’t run a lot of high pick-and-rolls. He prefers inside the three-point line pick-and-rolls. It puts the guard closer to the basket, which puts more pressure on the defense. And makes a shorter role for the big man. I think it would suit Chicago just fine because their guards can attack really well from the midrange.
Sarunas Jasikevicius could be a great fit for the Chicago Bulls if the decide to move on from Billy Donovan.
His team doesn’t shoot a lot of threes. Only this past season FC Barcelona finished 9th in threes attempted. But in the previous two seasons under coach Jasikevicius, they were 17th and 16th in an 18-team Euroleague. But they were first by three-point percentage in the last two seasons.
Timing is extremely important on offense. A lot of times it’s zipper action combined with hand-off and it turns into pick and roll. Or some other combination. That’s why Jasikevicius’ teams struggle early in the season because it takes time to adjust to the offense.
Sarunas Jasikevicius doesn’t stick to one style. He can adapt to his players really well and plays to their strengths. On defense, there are strict rules. There is a mix of ICE and Step-Out defenses on pick and roll. You have to push the opponent to his weak hand and contain middle penetration. Coach Jasikevicius emphasizes defense a lot. In the last three seasons, his FC Barcelona squad twice finished top two in points allowed per game.
The most important thing is that he’s holding players accountable. He will get in your face regardless of your status. And that’s really important. It keeps the team afloat and earns players respect because players are being treated equally.
Sure, sometimes he’s being really tough on his players. He may raise a voice once or twice. If you’ve made a mistake, he will let you know. I’m not sure, how players would react to that. The approach in Europe and the USA is a bit different. But he’s smart enough to figure it out.
Lastly, I think his chances to coach the Chicago Bulls are not as slim as you might think. He and Arturas Karnisovas have a deep and long-lasting connection. They’ve played together in the Lithuanian National team and later in FC Barcelona, so he knows Jasikevicius quite well.
I believe, that eventually, Sarunas Jasikevicius will get a chance in the NBA. He’s just too good of a coach, to not get an opportunity. Since the NBA stylistically is moving the European way, is only fitting, that coaches from Europe will come to the NBA sooner or later. Coaches like Jasikevicius don’t become available too often, so if you have a chance to grab him, you should absolutely do it.