The Bulls made their contract extension with Jim Boylen official last week, signing the head coach to a reported three-year contract.
Boylen still had one year remaining on his initial contract as head coach, which he signed in December after taking over for Fred Hoiberg. The extension didn’t come as a surprise after team Executive Vice President John Paxson hinted about a possible deal at his end-of-season press conference early last month.
What was surprising, however, was the timing of the news. The press release came during the Friday news dump, on a day when both Chicago baseball teams were playing, and just hours after the Bears had kicked off their rookie training camp.
Team executives have raved about their love for Boylen in the past and all expressed concrete trust in him at the end of the season. If they are as confident in Boylen as they say, it doesn’t make much sense for them to hide the news.
It seems as if the Bulls front office wanted to slip the news of their contract extension through the cracks without drawing too much attention. Paxson, General Manager Gar Forman, and team President Michael Reinsdorf knew that their fans would be upset with the news and tried to avoid the inevitable uproar it would cause instead of facing the music.
In doing so, they showed just how out of touch they are with their fanbase. At the very least, they’re apathetic to the way Bulls fans are feeling about their roster and coaching staff moves.
Reinsdorf can invite as many fans to his private suite as he wants, as he did with an upset season ticket holder a few months ago, but his actions in the front office speak louder than his actions toward individual fans. Even when fan distaste for his actions became more public, with a fan-funded billboard two summers ago, Reinsdorf has been unflinching in his decisions.
NBA franchises aren’t run by fans, for obvious reasons, and it would’ve been a cop-out for the Bulls to have moved on from Boylen completely so quickly after naming him, head coach. But signing Boylen to three more years when he still has another year remaining on his current contract could really burn bridges with fans.
Fans burn jerseys when their superstars leave for another team; they burn their season ticket deals when they get tired of their front office. At some point, whether it’s right around the corner or a ways down the road, the Bulls’ unpopular decisions will start costing them revenue. And at some point, it may cost some of them their jobs.
This is the second Forman/Paxson head coach hiring in four years, both of which were personal choices of either Forman or Paxson, and both of which were not well-received by fans. If Boylen doesn’t lead the Bulls to success and lead them quickly, it may be the straw that finally breaks Reinsdorf’s back in making front office changes.
And even if Boylen begins to grow on fans over the next three season, as he has started to grow on his players, it may be too late to win back the ones that have already given up on the Bulls.
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