There's a new sheriff in town. And he says he's just going to be a straight shooter.
But will he be able to hit the target?
"What I explained to the team is it's about the team," former assistant Jim Boylen said Tuesday in Indianapolis before his first game as Bulls head coach. "I've been in playoff series where a guy played in the first round and didn't play in the second round. And then he played in the third round. Because that's what you do. So we're going to try and establish that mindset that when you're called upon you're ready to roll, and that's the way the good teams do it. Not every matchup is for you, not every game is for you, especially if you're a guy that comes off the bench. So you have to establish that early and we're going to try and do that.'
"Jabari has been great," Boylen said about the moody forward who returns to a reserve role with Lauri Markkanen starting against Indiana. "He understands. Jabari wants to make it about helping the team win. And that's what I've asked him to do. His role is to play basketball like he can play basketball. He gets it off that board, he can bring it. We get in the half court and he has an advantage, he's gotta take advantage of it. He has to keep guarding and rebounding. He's committed to working at (his transition defense). Also, defensive rebounding as a group, we're committed to working at that, too. The majority of our practice was about those two things."
And as they tend to call these things eras however short they often may be, Boylen's begins in Indianapolis, one of his many stops as an assistant. His family will be among those in attendance for his long awaited debut as an NBA head coach, certainly his personal long awaited debut.
"Absolutely. I got (butterflies) right now talking to you guys," Boylen joked about his new job nerves. "If you don't, I don't know who you are. Anybody who tells you they don't, I don't think they're telling you the truth. Pop (Gregg Popovich, whom Boylen also worked for) had butterflies. Pop was tight because you care, you want it. And you don't want to make a mistake, either. You put pressure on yourself to be perfect, which we know is impossible. But you try."
And so the players will, too, Zach LaVine noting it's business as usual in the NBA.
"I think this is going to be my fifth coach. It's almost like you get numb to it," LaVine said. "I texted (Fred Hoiberg) right afterwards and let him know I appreciate him and thanks for all the hard work because at the end of the day Fred is a great dude and you respect that. He did a good job here. He was under some circumstances that you can't control, but sometimes it's over your head and you can't control that. We appreciate him and we still got a job to do, come out here and play. Coach Boylen is going to do his best and he's already putting his footprint on how we're going to change things."
"Everybody respected Fred. We all listened to him," said LaVine. "Obviously with everybody, there's certain things he didn't like about me or certain things that we didn't see eye-to-eye on, but we all respected him. (Boylen) is a different coach. Has a different personality, and you have to understand it's not going to be the same. He's going to be the head coach and he's going to do things the way he thinks is best. You have to respect that. He met with everybody individually, we talked about things, and we're going to go from here. He's more of a tough minded dude. He wants to instill that hard work. He's an old school coach as well, and I've played for a couple of those old school coaches already. It's a different vibe. You have to be used to it. So I'm trying to let everybody know that.'
"A lot of things are changing really fast. You have to be able to adjust to it because that's our job," said LaVine. "Even if you like it or don't, you have to learn how to cope with it, and we have to learn how to win and get back into this thing because, like I said, the season isn't going to stop. I think we'll be all right.'
But even with Pacers star Victor Oladipo out injured, it's not going to be easy for Boylen in his first game with Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis still unavailable. They are now practicing with the Windy City Bulls, which means one or both could play this weekend. But management in the dismissal of Hoiberg after three-plus years talked about a need for a new spirit and accountability, and Boylen is sending his message.
At his opening media conference Monday, Boylen said, "What I hope we can do is own Bulls across our chest better. I don't think we've owned it very well. And we have a lot to play for in this program and this place. That's where its got to go, who we're playing for, what city we're representing, and I'm going to preach those things every day. I wasn't raised to think that you can't box a guy out whether you're 6-1 or 6-8, that you can't be physical whether you're 6-1 or 6-8. We have to be more physical. We have to care about it more, and that's what I hope I can help us do."
Boylen emphasized he met with players Monday and Tuesday to emphasize those roles and that playing or not, they had to get in line.
Tough talk; tougher to implement, especially with main players still missing and then working back in with playing time limitations. Boylen said he decided to keep Justin Holiday starting at small forward because of his so called "3 and D" nature as a three-point shooter and defender. And he'll use Wendell Carter Jr., Robin Lopez and Cristiano Felicio as the old Phil Jackson "three headed monster" center.
"There might be games where Felicio's matchup or Felicio's situation is better than RoLo's," said Boylen. "There might be situations where RoLo gets in there early because there's a real dominant big man and Wendell has two fouls. Those guys know that, I explained it to them, and I like that. I don't know if bad cop, good cop is the way to do it. Fred wanted me to assume the role to help him win and to help him grow this group. It's the role he gave me. I did to the best of my ability. You can ask the guys. I've been honest and direct since the first day I was here. And that's not going to change. There's a way to operate in this league. And there's a way not to. We're going to try to operate at the highest level. That's my goal."