Very, very few things scream “Chicago sports fan” quite as much as the unearned self-confidence to believe we could do a better job as head coach whenever our favorite teams make a misstep. It doesn’t even matter what sport it is — basketball, football, baseball, hockey, you name it, and we’re more than likely coming for the head coach’s job. The Chicago Bulls are a particularly interesting example in that regard, as they’ve been blessed with some of the greatest coaches in NBA history, but also cursed with a few of the worst.
So when a controversial figure like Billy Donovan strolls into town, you can bet there’s going to be an endless debate amongst the fanbase regarding his job performance. Donovan has posted a middling 117-119 record since taking over the team, which isn’t enough to wow, but is still quite respectable when you consider that he now ranks sixth all-time in total wins as head coach for this team.
Although Donovan isn’t the best coach we’ve ever had run the show here in the Windy City, he also certainly isn’t the worst. If you’re one of the misguided fans who think Billy is the sole root of Chicago’s struggles, I think it’s time we take a trip down memory lane to make it clear just how bad (and good!) it can really get when it comes to Bulls head coaches.
Through the highs and the lows, these are the 3 best and worst head coaches in Chicago Bulls history.
No. 3 worst: Bill Cartwright (2002-2004)
As a player, Bill Cartwright gave Bulls fans many happy memories as an integral piece to Chicago’s first three-peat championship run alongside Michael Jordan. As a coach, however, things did not go nearly as smoothly for Cartwright.
Taking the reigns for the Bulls in the post-Jordan era, Cartwright failed to help right the ship and posted a horrid 51-100 record as head coach. Cartwright was so bad that even his star player, Jalen Rose, would be traded for a poor package to the Clippers just to rid themselves of this terrible era of Bulls basketball.
Just one year after finishing 23-59 in the final season with Cartwright, Chicago would immediately return to relevance with a 47-35 record under new head coach Scott Skiles.
No. 3 best: Dick Motta (1969-1976)
Although Dick Motta’s time in Chicago came far too long ago for most Bulls fans these days to remember, his achievements should still not be diminished or dismissed in the slightest. Motta’s teams won an incredible 356 games, the second-most of any coach in franchise history.
Motta’s teams were littered with legends of the past including Chet Walker, Jerry Sloan, Bob Love, and Norm Van Lier. Although Motta was a first-time head coach and just the second coach to ever lead the Bulls after joining the NBA in 1966, he’d post a 54.3% winning percentage (the fourth-highest in franchise history) across eight seasons with the team. After leaving the Bulls, Motta would carry on to coach for 17 more seasons and even won a championship with the Washington Bullets in 1978.