Boylen only has one more year left on his contract after this season, and while John Paxson said Monday he could remain the coach next season, that could potentially hinge on how things play out the rest of this campaign.
The Bulls could opt to hire a different mind to sail this ship forward, but Boylen definitely seems to be in the mix for a long-term deal. Here are five candidates who could hold the title of head coach starting next season, in order of whom they should hire.
5. Jim Boylen
Boylen could ultimately get the vote of confidence from the front office and have his contract extended, though it could take a few games before the front office pulls the trigger on any potential negotiations. After getting five pivotal years as an understudy to legendary Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote, he enjoyed immediate success as an assistant for the Houston Rockets, netting two rings in the process in 1994 and 1995, adding another as a former understudy of Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 prior to joining the Bulls in 2015.
Boylen is well-liked for his intensity and a long reputation of working under one of the most respected coaches in the industry, Rudy Tomjanovich, who once sung praise for his former assistant.
“He’s just one of the hardest-working guys I’ve been around,” Tomjanovich said of Boylen after his initial hiring in 2015, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “He absolutely loves the game and loves studying the game and working on solutions. He’s like a brother to me, part of the family.”
If Boylen sticks around, it would give this young team some continuity, as some of the young players have had at least a year of rapport with the longtime league assistant.
4. Stephen Silas
Silas is the unsung hero of the Stephen Curry saga, as he was the man who helped integrate the two-time MVP into the league during his rookie season — a transition that most franchises deemed vital, given his frail frame and many questions surrounding his ability to withstand punishment at the NBA level.
The 45-year-old has been an assistant since 2000 and also has experience as a scout — giving him a unique insight as to how to best deploy talent in a lineup and how to make the best of said talent.
Silas recently became an assistant for Rick Carlisle and the Dallas Mavericks after eight seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets, making this his potential first head coaching job.
3. Ettore Messina
Another product of the Spurs, which has proven to be a boon for teams looking for coaching candidates. Messina can be the next in line of the long list of Gregg Popovich alums to make it big in the NBA, with recent examples like Brett Brown and Mike Budenholzer making a strong difference for each of their respective teams.
Messina’s attention to detail and wealth of experience with NBA and international franchises would bring a fresh and different impact on a Bulls team that is in dire need of young leadership, but one that should start with a strong mentor at the head coaching position.
Messina has an incredible resume and is perhaps the most qualified individual on this list, having coached since 1989. He has coached the Italian national team on two different occasions, plus he held a role as a consultant for the Los Angeles Lakers before taking on assistant coaching duties under Popovich in 2014.
2. Monty Williams
Williams’ extensive resume in the NBA coaching world speaks for itself, as does his experience in the front office. Monty likely wouldn’t have any say in the front-office decisions with a cemented partnership of Gar Forman and John Paxson at the executive ranks, but if there is something he has done well during his coaching career, it is adjusting to the talent at hand.
Williams is largely responsible for turning Chris Paul into the Hall of Fame-caliber player he has proven to be, as well as paving the path for Anthony Davis, helping him reach the playoffs for the first time as the undisputed leader of the team.
The 47-year-old rebounded nicely from his lone stint with the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans, soon getting jobs as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs as the Vice President of Basketball Operations, and now as Brett Brown’s lead assistant with the emerging Philadelphia 76ers.
Williams’ compassionate and understanding style of coaching lends well to the modern NBA head coach, who is as much of a confidant and support system for young players as development coaches are.
1. Jerry Stackhouse
The former NBA star has only been in the coaching business for three years, but he has already turned heads around the league after a short stint with the Toronto Raptors as an assistant and a triumphant debut after being named head coach of the franchise’s G League affiliate, Raptors 905 — coaching the team to a championship in 2016-17 as a rookie at the helm.
Stackhouse was named the NBA D-League Coach of the Year in 2017 and is now part of one of the biggest eye-opening surprises of this young basketball season as an assistant for the Memphis Grizzlies.
His emphasis on defense and excellent rapport with players could prove an easy fit with a fan base that has long missed a strong-willed coach like Tom Thibodeau and a front office determined to find a coach who will play their young talent and grow them into winners.