CHICAGO — The skidding Chicago Bulls fired coach Fred Hoiberg on Monday and promoted associate head coach Jim Boylen in hopes of lifting the team from the bottom of the standings.
The Bulls have been hit hard by injuries this season, but at 5-19 only two teams have worse records.
“Decisions like this one are never easy to make, however I felt this was the right choice for our organization at this time,” said Jim Paxson, the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations. “After a thorough evaluation, I elected to make this move with the overall development of our team in mind. As a team, I believe it is imperative that we make unfaltering strides in the right direction and build the right habits to help put our players in the best position to evolve not only now, but into the future.”
Hoiberg was named Chicago’s head coach in June 2015 after spending five seasons at Iowa State, where the former player was nicknamed “The Mayor.” Hoiberg went 115-56 at Iowa State, including four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and back-to-back Big 12 tournament titles.
He replaced Tom Thibodeau, who was fired after five seasons, and the hope was that the free-wheeling style he used with the Cyclones would work in the NBA and that he would fare better than another former Iowa State coach, Tim Floyd, who went 49-190 record in three-plus seasons with the Bulls.
The circumstances were different, but the results were disappointing. Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic were among the departures as the Bulls tried to find the right formula.
Paxson also said the Bulls are committed to Boylen as their long-term head coach and that general manager Gar Forman is “absolutely safe.”
“What I hope we can do is own ‘Bulls’ across our chest better,” said Boylen.
Boylen, who arrived in Chicago in 2015, is a veteran but this will be his first time as an NBA head coach. He has spent more than 20 years in the NBA, where he also has been an assistant in Houston, Golden State, Milwaukee, Indiana and San Antonio.
He also was the head coach at the University of Utah for four seasons.
The 53-year-old Boylen is a native of East Grand Rapids, Michigan. He played four seasons under coach Skip Chappelle at UMaine, where he was an All-North Atlantic Conference pick.
He was a member of the 1986-1987 Black Bears team that knocked off Michigan State at the Bangor Auditorium. He scored 19 points and dished out eight assists in that game.
As a senior that season, Boylen was the runner-up to the late Reggie Lewis, who was drafted by the Boston Celtics, as the conference player of the year.
Boylen joins Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks as former UMaine basketball standouts who played for Chappelle and are head coaches in the NBA.
South Portland native Brett Brown is also the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers while Steve Clifford is the fourth NBA head coach with Maine ties as the Island Falls native is in his first season directing the Orlando Magic.
Boylen started his career an NBA coach in 1992 as an assistant with the Houston Rockets, where Mainer John Killelea, a former Celtics coach, was an assistant. Boylen spent 11 seasons in Houston, where he was a part of two world championship teams.
He spent 2004-2005 with Milwaukee and then worked two years at Michigan State, where he began his coaching career from 1987-1992. He was the head coach at the University of Utah (2007-2011), leading the Utes to a 69-60 record.
Boylen returned to the NBA in 2011-2012 at Indiana and did a two-year stint (2013-2015) under Gregg Popovich at San Antonio, where he won another NBA title before moving on to the Bulls.
The Bulls have been riddled by injuries all year. Denzel Valentine (ankle), Kris Dunn (knee) and Bobby Portis (knee) have missed significant time and forward Lauri Markkanen didn’t make his season debut until this past weekend because of an elbow injury.
The 7-foot Markkanen is perhaps the centerpiece of Chicago’s rebuilding plan, but Hoiberg won’t be around to see it through. He finishes his tenure in Chicago, where he played for four seasons and had a long history with general manager Gar Forman, with a record of 115-155 (.426) and a single playoff appearance, when the Bulls were ousted in the first round by Boston in 2017.