Donovan Providing Bulls More Than Wins


When Billy Donovan took over the Chicago Bulls’ head coaching job this summer, many fans saw it as a breath of fresh air. With one-third of the season complete, it looks as if the hire was a match made in heaven.

Prior Struggles

Before Donovan took over, the Bulls were “coached” by Jim Boylen. Often times lacking leadership, the Bulls’ struggled buying into Boylen’s system. Zach LaVine was audible in his dissatisfaction of the Bulls’ coach. After a game in which LaVine was pulled early, many within the team thought the two would engage in a physical altercation. The suicide sprints and extra push-ups wouldn’t be enough for Boylen, as he was let go this past offseason, after a dismal 39-84 record.

It was evident the Bulls’ needed a new voice to motivate the players. A coach who has prior head coaching experience, with the ability to get the most out of his players. When Donovan was surprisingly let go by Oklahoma City, the Bulls knew this was the man for the job.

New Voice at the Helm

Though only having played 25 games, it is noticeable the effect that Donovan has brought to Chicago.

Offensively, the Bulls are one of the better teams in the league. Averaging 114.7 points per game, they rank seventh in the NBA. They also rank eight in assists per game with 26.3 and fifth in field goal percentage, shooting 48.0%.

But it hasn’t just been on the court where the Bulls have been prospering.

In the locker room, Bulls’ players have seemed to have bought into what Donovan has been preaching – togetherness, sacrifice, responsibility.

When the Bulls recorded their first win on the season, LaVine gave the game ball to Donovan. Although it may seem to be a small gesture, seeing your star player care about the head coach is refreshing.

In Donovan’s time in Oklahoma City, player development was one of his strong suits. With a three-headed backcourt led by Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Donovan was able to use great guard play to the team’s success. Using more pick-and-roll, isolation, and mid-range game, the Thunder ranked eighth in the NBA in field goal percentage.

Next Step: Winning

When the average age of an NBA starting lineup is 21.6 years old, it is expected that there will be growing pains. For the Bulls’ young players, they will need to learn how to win.

With their last winning season having been in 2015-16, Donovan knows his job is to get these players in a winning mindset.

One way to flip the script and bring winning ways to a young team is by adding experienced veterans. Over the summer, the Bulls brought in Garrett Temple, to go along with Thaddeus Young and Tomáš Satoransky. Together, the three have 15 total playoff appearances.

Having guys like LaVine, Coby White, Patrick Williams and Lauri Markkanen learn from players who have done it before, is good learning experience.

Garrett Temple has already taken White under his wing to teach him the ways of playing point guard in the NBA. White has referred to Temple as a “true brother and true mentor” to him.

Though an early 10-15 record doesn’t bode well for the Bulls playoff chances this season, the experience they are having can help them long-term. With a head coach who understands his roster and where they stand, the Bulls are shaping up to possibly be a team in the near future.

Follow us on Twitter @BullsLead for the latest Bulls news and insight.

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About Tim Houlihan

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