The Chicago Bulls are empowering Billy Donovan by letting their newly hired head coach start with a clean slate.
Donovan was hired last month by the newly-minted executive vice president for basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas. The former OKC head coach took over from Jim Boylen whom Karnisovas fired last March after two fruitless seasons with the Bulls.
“I appreciate the time that I was able to spend with Dean, Nate, Roy, and Karen. I really want to thank all of them for their service and commitment to the Chicago Bulls. This is the tough side to our business, and I wish all of them the best moving forward.”
Parting With Assistant Coaches
On Monday, the team announced that it has parted ways with four assistant coaches. In a statement, the Bulls announced that they have let go of Karen Stack Umlauf, Dean Cooper, Nate Loenser, and Roy Rogers. Prior to their dismissal, the team had picked up the option for next season on Loesner while Rogers had signed a three-year extension last offseason.
Umlauf was a standout player for Northwestern in the early 80s and was hired by Jerry Krause as a ticket representative in 1985. She was soon transferred to the team’s basketball operations department and in 2018, she became the franchise’s first female assistant coach after serving as associate coach for that year’s Summer League.
Meanwhile, Loenser was in his third season with the Bulls. Cooper had done two years with the team while Rogers was in his maiden term with the team. With the four gone, only lead assistant coach Chris Fleming remains on the staff although it’s not clear if he will retain his old position under Boylen. Fleming helped run the group workouts at the Advocate Center during the recent minicamp.
Capable of Competing for a Playoff Spot
Donovan’s current team doesn’t have the kind of star power that his teams in OKC did. However, they have a young core whose talents Jim Boylen never really unlocked. If Donovan can put the pieces together this season, Chicago is a team that is capable of contending for a playoff spot given the lack of depth at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Online sportsbook BetOnline has pegged the Bulls as a +3300 in the current odds board to win the Eastern Conference, putting them in a tie with the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers for 7th place in the current 2021 odds board.
The team is led by pseudo-superstar Zach Lavine who continues to develop as one of the NBA’s premier scorers. Chicago also has big man Lauri Markkanen, who played like a unicorn the other season but is coming off a poor year. They also have guard Coby White who made the All-Rookie second team this season. Big man Wendell Carter is also slowly coming to his own in the league.
Returning to the Postseason
The Bulls hired Donovan shortly after he parted ways with the Oklahoma City Thunder last month. The 55-year old mentor led the OKC Thunder to five consecutive trips to the NBA playoffs, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals. Chicago has missed the playoffs four times in the last five years and they are hoping to return to the postseason with the experience that Donovan brings.
Donovan arrived in OKC with a resume that included back-to-back NCAA national titles. He led the team to the Western Conference Finals during his first season and then took the Thunder to four more postseasons despite Kevin Durant leaving the team for the Golden State Warriors in 2016.
Donovan has a record of 243-157 (.608) in five regulus seasons with OKC. This past season, he led the Thunder to the 5th best record in the Western Conference despite the team trading their top two players from the previous season. OKC lost to the 4th ranked Houston Rockets 4-3 in the first round.
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