The day after he was fired as head coach of the University of Utah mens basketball team in 2011, Jim Boylen turned to one of his favorite activities for solace: He went skiing at Snowbird.
“I wanted that thing really bad there, to make it work,” Boylen said. “We had some success, and when it gets taken away from you, it’s painful. So recovering from that is difficult.”
But during the 2018 All-Star break, he returned to Utah to ski with his family, this time at Park City, reflecting how he came to enjoy Utah during his time here, even during his team’s up-and-down campaign.
“It’s amazing that it’s been eight years in March that I left Utah. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had here. I loved it here,” Boylen said. “I loved the experience. I wouldn’t be the head coach of the Bulls or the leader I am, the coach I am today if it wasn’t for that experience. I’m thankful for it. This is a beautiful place, and I have a lot of great memories.”
In his four seasons at Utah, Boylen amassed a 69-60 record, leaving athletic director Chris Hill to let him go after a 13-18 performance in the 2010-11 campaign. After that, Boylen returned to work as an NBA assistant, first with the Indiana Pacers, then going to the bench of the San Antonio Spurs, before being hired as a Bulls assistant in 2015.
In the nearly eight years that have passed since, Boylen says he’s developed as a coach.
“I think just maturity. I think I’m a better communicator than I was then,” Boylen said. “I think I’m a little more patient, a little more tolerant, hopefully wiser.”
His trip to Utah coincided with a big day for him contractually, receiving a raise and more guaranteed money from the Bulls for the remainder of this season and next. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that $1 million of a total of $1.6 million is guaranteed for the 2019-20 season, giving the Bulls the option of keeping Boylen if he does well this season, or searching for a new coach in the offseason if not.
“The Bulls have been very gracious to me, and very supportive in everything we’re trying to do,” Boylen said. “They’ve been fair, and honest, and direct, and I respond to that well, and it’s been great.”
The Bulls are 5-13 under Boylen, and he’s been controversial at times already in that tenure. Bulls players reached out to the National Basketball Players Association about tactics Boylen used in practices, and they refused to practice after a back-to-back, albeit one that included a 56-point loss to Boston. He’s also bucking the trend in the NBA of playing with pace, even telling his players to slow down at times.