Sometimes NBA coaches, drunk on false power and endless ego, tell themselves that they’re running the locker room. They think they have control. The good ones understand that arrogance eventually costs them everything.
Boylan isn’t soft.
As an interim coach, trying to win the full-time job, he looks smart today.
No one wins until a locker room, until a basketball team, takes ownership of itself. Noah had been trying people’s patience with late arrivals and borderline attitude this season. Finally, the Florida rookie unleashed a nasty, personal diatribe on an assistant coach correcting him on the practice floor. Boylan suspended him for Friday’s game, but the Bulls players agreed that they wanted to send a sterner message to Noah.
They called for the suspension to take him out of a second game. The Bulls think he is an immature and spoiled pain in the butt. Enough, they said. Enough.
As it turns out, Boylan wouldn’t make the mistake that Isiah Thomas did in early November. The Knicks emperor told Stephon Marbury on a flight to Phoenix that he was no longer the starting point guard. Marbury exploded on the flight, returned to New York the next day and missed a loss to the Suns. As Yahoo! Sports Johnny Ludden reported, Thomas told Jamal Crawford to poll his teammates on whether they wanted Marbury to be allowed to play the next night against the Clippers.
All in all, the Knicks deeply disdain the point guard. Once, they feared his power and pull with Thomas. Eventually, they just hated his selfishness, his ability to drain the joy out of every day. The Knicks voted unanimously against Marbury. After walking out on the team, no Knick wanted him back. To a man, they told Thomas: Bench him.
So Thomas, who called for the vote, played Marbury 34 minutes in the game.
He didn’t just lose the game, he lost his team.
Listen, Noah is no Marbury. He’s a rookie. He’s immature. Yet this is when you make rookies grow up, or, like Marbury, they never get held accountable until they’re too far gone. When Bulls GM John Paxson drafted Noah out of Florida, he understood there was a level of immaturity that came with the forward’s energy and enthusiasm. You didn’t need to be an insider to know that. If you watched the NCAA Tournament the past two years, you saw it yourself. He overreacts and overcompensates.
Sometimes, Noah plays the fool. Sometimes, he plays the spoiled brat.
This has worn on the Bulls and they let him have it.
“He just wants to win,” Florida coach Billy Donovan told the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday. Yes, the all-purpose ointment for the college coach embarrassed by his players’ unpreparedness for the pros.
He just wants to win. Spare us. Everyone wants to win. Get over it and be a pro.
The Bulls are still trying to find that one voice, that one leader, who runs the room. Ben Wallace had been hired to do the job, but failed miserably. His game is nearly gone, and his past undermining of Flip Saunders and Scott Skiles leaves him low on credibility.
Nevertheless, the Bulls' voice of accountability needed to be collective on Noah. Boylan, substitute teacher, was wise to heed it. Out of a team that had appeared rudderless, that is still in last place in the Central Division, the uniting over Joakim Noah could turn out to be the coach’s call to arms.
- Jim Boylan
- Joakim Noah