Wes Unseld Jr.

Bulls Fire Head Coach Jim Boylen

The Bulls have parted ways with head coach Jim Boylen, announcing today in a press release that he has been relieved of his duties. A search for the team’s next head coach will begin immediately, according to the release.

“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 VP 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.”

Boylen, who took the reins from Fred Hoiberg during the 2018/19 season, led the Bulls to an underwhelming 39-84 (.317) record during his brief tenure as head coach and didn’t always see eye-to-eye with his players, including standout guard Zach LaVine.

When Karnisovas took over as Chicago’s new head of basketball operations in the spring, he indicated that he wanted to take some time to evaluate Boylen, though he hasn’t had many opportunities to do so in recent months. The Bulls weren’t invited to the NBA’s 22-team restart in Orlando, and still haven’t approved organized practices or scrimmages for the eight teams left out, leaving those clubs to conduct individual workouts this summer.

Reports dating back to May have suggested that Karnisovas and new GM Marc Eversley were leaning toward making a change, but more recent reports cast doubt on that plan, suggesting that financial factors could motivate the team to stick with Boylen. Given today’s news, it appears Bulls ownership is on board with eating the remainder of Boylen’s modest contract.

Sixers assistant Ime Udoka and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin have previously been cited as possible candidates to become the Bulls’ next head coach. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) adds a few more names to that list of potential targets, suggesting that Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, and former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson are expected to receive consideration as well.

Chicago will be the second team to conduct a formal head coaching search in 2020, joining the Knicks, who hired Tom Thibodeau last month. The Nets also intend to launch a search for a permanent head coach when their season ends, with the Rockets, Pelicans, and Sixers among the other teams worth keeping an eye on.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cavaliers Interview More Coaching Candidates

Members of the Cavaliers‘ front office are meeting with four candidates for their head coaching vacancy today in Denver, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

We told you earlier that Magic assistant coach Steve Hetzel had an interview, but GM Koby Altman and his staff also talked to Nuggets assistants Jordi Fernandez and Wes Unseld Jr.

Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool will interview tonight, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, while fellow Portland assistant Nate Tibbetts had a scheduling conflict and will hold his interview sometime after tomorrow’s Game 7. That will wrap up the first round of the coaching search, Fedor adds (Twitter link).

Cleveland has conducted the most wide-ranging interview process among the teams looking for a head coach. Spurs assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina, former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley have all interviewed for the job.

Cavs Receive Permission To Interview Nuggets’ Unseld

The Cavaliers have received permission to interview another candidate for their head coaching vacancy, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the Nuggets will allow Cleveland to meet with assistant Wes Unseld Jr.

Unseld’s inclusion in the Cavs’ head coaching search doesn’t come as a surprise. Shortly after word broke last month that Larry Drew wouldn’t return to the team’s sidelines next season, Wojnarowski identified Unseld as a potential target for Cleveland.

A veteran NBA assistant – and the son of Hall-of-Famer Wes Unseld – the younger Unseld served on coaching staffs in Washington, Golden State, and Orlando before arriving in Denver. He has been Michael Malone‘s lead assistant on the Nuggets’ bench since 2016.

The Cavaliers appears to be casting a wide net as they seek Drew’s replacement. Having already met with Juwan Howard, Jamahl Mosley, and J.B. Bickerstaff, the club has a Friday meeting lined up with Alex Jensen and has also received permission to speak to Unseld, David Vanterpool, and Nate Tibbetts.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez and Bucks assistant Darvin Ham have also been mentioned as possible candidates for the Cleveland job. Both of those teams remain alive in the playoffs, but now that they’ve requested permission to meet with Unseld, the Cavs could do the same with Fernandez and Ham.

Nuggets Finalize Coaching Staff

The Nuggets have hired former Rockets assistant Chris Finch to join their coaching staff, the team announced today.  Finch, who spent five years as an assistant in Houston and two as a D-League coach with Rio Grande Valley, is among four hirings and five promotions as Denver finalized the staff for head coach Michael Malone.

Today’s other announced hirings were assistant coach Jordi Fernandez, who spent the past two seasons as coach of the Cavaliers’ D-League affiliate in Canton; player development representative Stephen Graham, who played six years in the NBA and served as a D-League assistant in Fort Wayne last season; and head video coordinator Travis Armenta, who spent the past five seasons as assistant video coordinator for the Kings.

Wes Unseld Jr., an assistant coach with the Nuggets last season, has been promoted to Malone’s lead assistant. He coached with the Wizards, Warriors and Magic before coming to Denver. Also promoted were assistant coaches Micah Nori and Ryan Bowen, new player development coach Ognjen Stojakovic and new assistant video coordinator Tommy Massimino Jr.

Western Notes: Crawford, Ellis, Durant

Jamal Crawford wanted to remain with the Clippers all along, saying Los Angeles feels like home to him, Rowan Kavner of NBA.com relays. “I’ve said it the whole time, I wanted to come back here,” Crawford said. “My wife, we’ve been together 10 years now, but we’ve been in one place the longest here, so this is where she kind of knows from a team aspect. This is kind of like our home as well.” Crawford also noted that the unity throughout the team separated the Clippers from other places in the NBA – from the front office down to the locker room, which is another reason he re-signed with the club, Kavner relays. “That’s kind of unusual in this business,” Crawford said. “I’m not saying everything’s perfect or we don’t have our ups and downs or see things from different points of view; but overall, it’s a family.”

Here’s more from out West:

  • The Suns are closing in on hiring Ty Ellis as the head coach of their D-League affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns, Marc Stein of ESPN.com relays (on Twitter). Ellis spent the 2015/16 campaign as an assistant on Phoenix’s D-League squad in Bakersfield.
  • Nuggets assistant coach Ed Pinckney is no longer with the team, having resigned from his post, and Wes Unseld has been promoted to lead assistant, Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post relays (on Twitter). A team source disputes that Pinckney resigned, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv tweets, but that source did confirm that Pinckney was no longer with Denver.
  • Small forward Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors this offseason to compete for an NBA title, but he’ll likely see his off the court earnings increase as a result of the move, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. “It’s a huge move for Kevin,” said Eric Schiffer, CEO of Patriarch Organization and the chairman of ReputationManagementConsultants.com. “It’s going to be amazing for him from a financial standpoint. I think he is going to give LeBron James a run for his money there once he gets into the Bay Area. It gives him an almost unfair advantage in terms of marketing. It gives advertisers and brands who want to align with greatness further reason to invest. It’s going to be an economic earthquake. He can really change things there.

And-Ones: Drummond, Farmar, Mekel

The Pistons could reap greater cap flexibility for next summer if they wait until then to sign Andre Drummond as a restricted free agent instead of giving him an extension this summer, but the team will leave that choice to the Jeff Schwartz client, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Drummond reportedly wants an extension, so it would seem it’s a strong bet he’ll end up with one before the October 31st rookie scale extension deadline. Here’s more from around the NBA and related circles:

  • Jordan Farmar has signed with Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team announced (hat tip to David Pick of Eurobasket.com). Agent Tony Dutt searched for NBA deals for the point guard who spent part of last season with the Clippers, but found nothing, as Pick hears (Twitter link).
  • Maccabi Tel Aviv management pushed for the deal with Farmar, while the coaches were higher on former Mavs and Pelicans point guard Gal Mekel, according to Pick, who earlier reported that Mekel and the team had a verbal agreement on a three-year deal with NBA out clauses (Twitter links). However, fellow Israeli club Hapoel Jerusalem is still pursuing Mekel, who remains in talks with teams from the NBA and Europe, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss clarified in a radio appearance on KPCC-FM last week that this past year was the first on brother Jim Buss‘ three-year window to guide the team to at least the Western Conference Finals, as Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com details. Jim Buss would resign his job as executive VP of basketball operations if the Lakers aren’t back to that point by the end of the 2016/17 season, his sister said.
  • The Lakers, Heat, Knicks, Suns and Pelicans have expressed interest in Justin Hamilton, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). The Timberwolves elected not to retain the right to match offers for him when they decided against making a qualifying offer.
  • Serge Ibaka failed to meet an incentive worth $100K this past season, so his cap hit for the Thunder for this coming season shrinks by that amount, to $12.25MM, reports Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter). That’s unlikely to matter for the Thunder, who are expected to be well above the cap and exceed the tax line. Ibaka’s salary for tax purposes will be determined based on the bonuses that he either triggers or doesn’t trigger this coming season, whereas last season’s figures only affect his cap number.
  • The Nuggets are hiring German national team coach Chris Fleming, former Magic assistant Wes Unseld Jr., and Kings assistants Ryan Bowen and Micah Nori as assistants to new head coach Michael Malone, reports Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post. They’ll join Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney, who’s also reportedly joining the Denver coaching staff.

Magic Hire Unseld, Profit, Stuckey As Assistants

AUGUST 30TH, 11:53am: The Magic have hired Laron Profit and Luke Stuckey as assistants, filling out the team's coaching staff, tweets Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. Profit and Stuckey join Unseld Jr., James Borrego, and Brett Gunning on head coach Jacque Vaughn's staff.

AUGUST 24TH, 5:25pm: Wes Unseld Jr., son of Hall of Fame player Wes Unseld, will move from the Warriors to the Magic, where he'll assume an assistant coach position on Jacque Vaughn's new staff, reports CSNBayArea.com. Unseld spent last season in Golden State, and the previous 13 on the Wizards bench. 

Warriors GM Bob Myers indicated that the team would replace Unseld Jr. by either promoting someone from within the organization, or hiring a new name from the outside. Earlier this week, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel tweeted that Unseld Jr. was a candidate for an assistant coaching position on the Magic staff.