Last night’s loss sent the Chicago Bulls to a 4-9 record in the young 2023 season, including a 0-2 standing in the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament. Although Zach LaVine has been the most criticized thus far for the Bulls, it’s becoming a close race as time passes and Chicago continues to search for answers. The fans in the United Center and LaVine’s post-game remarks left no question as to who they think needs to improve for the Bulls to find the winning track and reach the postseason for just the second time in seven seasons.
According to The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry, fans at the United Center were periodically booing their home team throughout last night’s game, a sight not uncommon during head coach Billy Donovan’s time with the franchise. After another gut-wrenching home loss, a “Fire Billy!” chant cadence could be heard along the arena’s tunnel as the Bulls returned to their locker room. If more of the population had caught wind of it sooner, there would’ve undoubtedly been 15,000 in unison. The inability to mesh three former All-Stars, the lack of production or development of Coby White or Patrick Williams, and the same issues plaguing each of the last three seasons all weigh heavily on Donovan’s reflection on Chicago’s faithful.
It’s interesting to hear Donovan so frequently reference the mindset and mentality of his team as a weakness in losing efforts, but a head coach is primarily responsible for that. Whether LaVine’s benching a season ago truly lost the locker room, his misuse of Nikola Vucevic has caused concern, or the inability to extract the best possible product out of several key players, this team feels like it’s fading from the former Florida Gators head coach and rightfully so.
LaVine’s Indirect Finger-Pointing
On the same day that Yahoo Sports released an article saying league sources heard LaVine was ready to play for a new head coach, his answer about the Bulls’ struggles as a team further hinted at his displeasure with Donovan.
In the last few games, Donovan has experimented with several rotational changes, different line changes in the fourth quarter, riding out deployments of five guys trending upwards, and has already used three different starting lineups through 13 games. Benching Patrick Williams was overdue, and moving Alex Caruso to the starting lineup felt like a reward for his unmatched hustle and grit. Caruso has easily been the most outstanding Chicago Bull in 2023, and again, last night proved pivotal to giving his team a chance to win.
Billy Donovan’s job is safe from the outside looking in. Having signed an extension this past offseason, having a reportedly great relationship with the front office, and LaVine taking much of the fall lately for the Bulls’ poor play, many would think Donovan is in the clear. However, nothing is safe with a 44% winning percentage in Chicago, one playoff appearance, and one playoff victory.
It’s also been reported that the Bulls’ ownership has changed their views on a rebuild and would support it with the proper return of assets. It’s unlikely Donovan would get another crack at a roster reconstruction, seeing how the last four years have gone under his leadership.
Does Donovan deserve to keep his head coaching position in Chicago, or will he be the one to fall on the sword if the Bulls continue their losing ways?