ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — A decision that was long expected finally became official Wednesday as the Milwaukee Bucks announced they wouldn’t be offering head coach Jim Boylan a contract for next season.
“These aren’t the best days, to say the least, when you have to make a decision like this,” Bucks general manager John Hammond said. “We don’t look forward to it. Jim did a very nice job with our team. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the efforts he made and what he stands for.
“He’s a tremendous guy and has been a part of this community for a very long time as a player at Marquette and a member of this organization. I think so very highly of him. When you think that way it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Boylan, 57, took over as coach when the team parted ways with Scott Skiles on Jan. 8 and led the Bucks to a 22-28 record in his 50 games in charge.
There was no interim label placed on Boylan when he was handed the reins to a 16-16 Milwaukee team, but he clearly needed a strong audition to secure the job past this season. The Bucks won eight of their first 11 games under Boylan, peaking at a season-high five games over .500 on Jan. 29.
The Bucks were 32-29 after a win in Sacramento on March 10 but won just six of their last 21 games to finish the season 38-44 and limp into the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed. Miami’s sweep of the Bucks in the first round of the NBA playoffs did nothing to strengthen Boylan’s position.
“When things like that are happening, I don’t go home and sit by myself and think what’s wrong with the players or what’s wrong with the coaches. I think about what did I do to allow it to get to this point,” Hammond said. “That really weighs on me and I take a lot of responsibility for that. Our job is to fix it.”
While Hammond admitted that the team’s underperformance contributed to Boylan not returning for next season, he takes responsibility for building a roster that underperformed.
“I still look at myself in the mirror,” Hammond said. “This is a results-driven business. We did have an ending that we were all concerned with. It’s what we do and we have to win in this business. Jim had a difficult time at different points in the season and some of it had to do with our rosters.
“The number of free agents that we had, that can be difficult. In the realm of what Jim had to do this job I think he did it and did it to the best of his ability.”
Assistant coaches Joe Wolf, Sidney Moncrief, Anthony Goldwire, Bill Peterson and Chris Gilmartin were not dismissed and will continue with the organization until the expiration of their contracts on July 1, though this is not a busy time for assistant coaches.
“We’ve asked them to be available as needed but at this point we’d like them to take some time and get away,” Hammond said.
Prior to being named as Milwaukee’s head coach, Boylan spent the previous four seasons as an assistant under Skiles. Joining an NBA coaching staff for the first time in 1997 with Vancouver, Boylan has served as an assistant coach with Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago and Milwaukee.
Boylan took over as interim coach of the Bulls when Skiles was fired in 2008, leading Chicago to a 24-32 record. In 106 games as an NBA head coach, Boylan is 46-60.
With Boylan’s dismissal, the Bucks will begin the search for their sixth head coach since George Karl was fired following the 2002-03 season.
Some of the candidates Milwaukee could consider include former NBA head coaches Stan Van Gundy, Jerry Sloan, Byron Scott, Nate McMillan and Lawrence Frank or assistant coaches Kelvin Sampson, Brian Shaw, Mike Budenholzer and Mike Malone.
Hammond said previous head coaching experience is not a requirement for Milwaukee’s next coach, while he also isn’t searching for a coach that plays a certain style. The Bucks will consider all options and choose the candidate they feel most qualified.
“In this day and age it seems like you need that coach who can show the player that he cares about them and then coach the heck out of them after that,” Hammond said. “What we want to do is get it right, rather than limit ourselves in the kind of person we are going to hire.”
A long shot of a candidate, Sloan is the most intriguing and most successful of the crop, but the former longtime head coach of the Utah Jazz may not be willing to return to coaching at age 71. The Hall of Fame coach would likely demand a hefty price and may not want to come to Milwaukee.
Scott and Frank were recently let go by the Cavaliers and Pistons respectively, while McMillan was out of basketball last season.
Of the crop of assistants, Sampson is the one Milwaukee is most familiar with as he served as an assistant coach under Skiles from 2008-11 before joining Kevin McHale’s staff with the Houston Rockets. When McHale took a leave of absence this season due to the passing of his daughter, Sampson served as interim coach.
A longtime assistant coach under Phil Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaw is currently an assistant with Indiana after he was passed up last offseason for the Lakers’ head coaching job in favor of Mike Brown.
Budenholzer has been the right-hand man to Gregg Popovich in San Antonio since 1996, and Malone is a hot commodity after spending the past 11 seasons as an assistant coach, currently on Golden State’s staff.
One of the leading candidates for NBA Coach of the Year, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins has yet to work out a contract extension with the Grizzlies and would be an intriguing candidate for the Bucks if he left Memphis following the postseason.
Hammond is placing no timeline on his search, but admitted his phone began ringing as soon as the news Boylan wasn’t returning broke.
“We are not going to limit ourselves,” Hammond said. “We’re not going to say we have to have a coach hired by June 1 or by the draft, whatever it may be. We just want to make sure as we go through the process is that we get it right.”