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Chicago Bulls, 2020 NBA Draft

3 best candidates to replace Jim Boylen as Bulls head coach

On Friday, the Chicago Bulls did something their fans have been pleading for them to do since last season: They fired Jim Boylen from his post as head coach, ending nearly two full seasons of misery.

To say that Boylen’s run in the Windy City didn’t go too well would be kind. Not only did he go 39-84 at the helm, but his players seemed to genuinely dislike him, and he appeared clueless more often than not.

Well, now, Zach LaVine and Co. will not have to worry about him patrolling the sidelines anymore.

Chicago has plenty of time to find his replacement, and the club already seems to have a list of names it is considering.

Here are the three best candidates to replace Boylen:

3. Wes Unseld Jr.

The son of the late, great Hall-of-Fame center, Wes Unseld Jr. has been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2005. Since 2015, he has been at the helm for the Denver Nuggets, and given that new Bulls general manager Arturas Karnisovas’ time in the Nuggets’ front office overlapped with Unseld, there is obvious familiarity here.

That reason alone gives Unseld the edge over plenty of other candidates.

Unseld is a defensive-minded coach, and while Denver certainly has not been a defensive stalwart during his time at the helm, the Nuggets have improved on that end of the floor in spite of not having the best defensive personnel.

Given how bad Chicago has been defensively in recent years, the club could certainly use a defensive guy to come in and at least get the club playing at a respectable level on that end of the floor.

Unseld has also been an assistant for the Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and Orlando Magic, so the veteran is certainly well-traveled and has accumulated his fair share of experience over the years.

Perhaps it’s time for him to ascend into the head-coaching ranks.

2. Ime Udoka

Ime Udoka is serving in his first year as an assistant for the Philadelphia 76ers, but prior to that, he was a member of Gregg Popovich’s staff with the San Antonio Spurs for seven years.

Now, just because someone learns under Popovich’s tutelage does not necessarily mean they have what it takes to become a head coach. Heck, Boylen himself was a Pop disciple. However, it does put them a bit ahead of the curve.

Like Unseld, Udoka is a defensive guy, which is not surprising given that the Spurs have generally always been defense-first teams. He has also found some success leading Philadelphia’s defense in his debut season with the squad.

The 43-year-old—who also had a seven-year NBA playing career—is one of the top names on the Bulls’ list of head-coaching candidates, so it would not be the least bit surprising to see Chicago give him the job.

If Udoka is anything like Popovich, that is something the Bulls certainly would not regret.

1. Kenny Atkinson

Kenny Atkinson seems to be the most obvious choice here.

Atkinson was actually doing a fine job with the Brooklyn Nets and even led a rather mediocre Nets roster to the playoffs last year. But, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant didn’t really seem to jive with Atkinson, which led to Brooklyn firing him earlier this season.

While he is still relatively unproven, Atkinson has at least shown that he can get the most out of his players. He greatly helped Spencer Dinwiddie turn into a legitimate weapon, and his player development has also worked wonders on guys like Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert. He also did a heck of a lot for D’Angelo Russell.

Could Atkinson turn around and to the same thing with a talented young Bulls roster?

Let me just say this: Chicago’s roster, which features LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White, is more talented than the group of guys Atkinson took to the playoffs with the Nets in 2019.

When you consider that Atkinson has already demonstrated solid player development skills and that the Bulls have more intriguing young players than the Nets did last year, you can see why Atkinson represents such a great choice for the club.

It should also be noted that current Chicago assistant Chris Fleming served under Atkinson in Brooklyn, and while the Bulls fired Boylen, they elected to keep Fleming on board. So, there is some familiarity there.

There won’t be any Kyrie Irvings or Kevin Durants to clash with Atkinson in Chicago.