The Bulls have fired coach Jim Boylen, the team announced Friday morning.
"After doing a comprehensive evaluation and giving the process the time it deserved, I ultimately decided that a fresh approach and evolution in leadership was necessary," new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said in a statement. "This was a very difficult decision, but it is time for our franchise to take that next step as we move in a new direction and era of Chicago Bulls basketball. Jim is a great human being that cares deeply about this organization and the game of basketball. I want to thank him for his professionalism and commitment to the franchise."
Boylen's exit continues the organization-wide overhaul that officially started when Karnisovas was installed as the chief basketball executive on April 13. In corresponding moves that day, longtime Bulls head of basketball operations John Paxson was reassigned into an advisory role and Karnisovas promptly fired general manager Gar Forman, citing philosophical differences. Now, the day-to-day leader of the players is gone as well.
"No one could question Jim’s passion for our team and our organization," Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf said in a statement. "We sincerely appreciate his tireless efforts and contributions during his time with the Bulls, and we wish him and his family the very best."
The Bulls will begin a formal coaching search immediately. Former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin are expected to be candidates, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported. On Thursday, Griffin was accused of domestic abuse by his ex-wife. Griffin "vehemently" denied the claims.
76ers assistant Ime Udoka is expected to be a candidate as well, according to multiple reports.
Boylen joined the Bulls as the lead assistant on coach Fred Hoiberg's staff in 2015. Boylen was then promoted to the head coaching position after Hoiberg was fired on Dec. 3, 2018. From there, Boylen endured a tumultuous tenure, compiling a 39-84 record in leading the Bulls across parts of two seasons. His .317 winning percentage is the second-worst of any coach in Bulls franchise history, trailing only Tim Floyd.
Boylen was tasked by Bulls ownership and management with transforming a culture that they believed had grown too lax under Hoiberg, and he approached that challenge head on. Boylen's hard-driving ways -- which included wind sprints, pushups and long practices early on -- weren't well-received initially by players. On his seventh day on the job, Boylen encountered the threat of a mutiny by several players who didn't want to practice after a back-to-back set of games, the latter of which featured a franchise-worst 56-point loss.
The Bulls moved past that adversity, but Boylen never connected with his players. He notably clashed with leading scorer Zach LaVine in November after singling LaVine out by benching him early in a loss. As big man Lauri Markkanen regressed in his third NBA season, he often lamented the manner in which he was being utilized on the offensive end. Guard Denzel Valentine was frustrated nearly all season long by his role.
As Karnisovas met with players to get their perspective on Boylen this offseason, he received mixed feedback, according to reports. That increased the speculation that he'd be fired, but Karnisovas remained methodical and the Bulls stayed quiet, which created questions about whether Boylen might return. Being left out of the NBA's 22-team restart and the delay of the 2020-'21 season left Karnisovas and the Bulls with plenty of time, and their decision came on the day the NBA's seeding games in Orlando were set to be finished.
Through all the turmoil, Boylen stayed true to his beliefs and his sometimes bizarre approach.
"If you build it, they will come," Boylen said after a road loss on Nov. 29, infamously referencing Field of Dreams in the context of wins coming the Bulls' way eventually.
When success may come for the Bulls remains uncertain. What's certain is that Boylen won't be the man leading the locker room in the endeavor to build a winning, championship-contending team.