Jim Boylan has waited a long time for his chance at a head coaching position in the National Basketball Association.
Even though he was given only an interim tag by the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, the former Marquette University guard is satisfied he will be given a fair shake _ by Bulls management and his players.
The 52-year-old Boylan takes over in tough circumstances, with the Bulls off to a surprisingly bad 9-17 start as they prepare to meet the division rival Milwaukee Bucks (11-16) Friday night at the United Center.
"I think I've developed a relationship with all the players, and I will use that to my advantage," Boylan said after directing his first practice session Thursday afternoon at the Berto Center. "I hope any preconceived notions by anyone are put on the backburner and (they) give me an opportunity to show exactly what kind of coach I am."
'A bit confused'
Boylan met with Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson on Wednesday, while the team was in San Antonio and losing to the Spurs, 94-79. That conversation convinced Paxson to name Boylan the interim coach, effective for the rest of the season.
Paxson fired coach Scott Skiles on Christmas Eve, in a move that had Boylan, Skiles' lead assistant for the past three years, a bit confused.
"When I first found out Scott was going to be let go, a certain amount of anxiety overtakes you," Boylan said. "First of all, you want the job. Secondly, you're thinking, `If I get it, will I be successful?' I told the players before practice, `It kind of swallowed me up there for a couple hours.'
"I finally realized that was no way to assume a position. So I just had to let it go. I'm looking at it as a great opportunity. I like my players; I think they're going to give me a great effort."
Boylan made a lineup change before his first practice session as coach, removing Ben Gordon from the starting backcourt and inserting Chris Duhon. Boylan's hope is that Gordon will flourish again in the sixth-man role he once held with the Bulls, and that Gordon and Andres Nocioni will provide consistent punch off the bench.
"Ben wants to be a starter, but he understands at this point, everybody needs to sacrifice," Boylan said. "So for the good of the team, he's willing to go back to that role he had. If we do that, it gives us a little bit better balance."
Gordon said he didn't think it would require a major adjustment on his part.
"Coach told me he just needed to make a move," Gordon said. "I've just got to keep the same mentality, come off the bench, be aggressive and try to score for this team. We've been struggling with our scoring. My job is still the same."
Boylan is a 14-year coaching veteran in the NBA and has served under Mike Fratello with Cleveland, Brian Hill in Vancouver, Terry Stotts in Atlanta and Skiles in Phoenix and Chicago.
He also has been heavily influenced by two greats in college coaching, Jud Heathcote and the late Al McGuire. Boylan was on Heathcote's staff at Michigan State in the late 1980s, and Boylan played under McGuire at Marquette and was a member of the 1977 NCAA championship team.
Waiting for the punch line
"Al brought a lot of toughness to coaching," Boylan said. "He was the kind of guy who would demand excellence from you, and he would be the first to let you know you weren't living up to that expectation.
"But don't let anybody else say that about you, because he'd be the first person standing in line to defend you."
A reporter asked Boylan if he ever had been punched by McGuire.
"He never punched me, but I saw some people get hit," Boylan said. "Luckily, it wasn't me."
The Bulls have lost four of their last five games, including home games to the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets, and they were booed at the United Center during the 18-point loss to the Rockets in their last home appearance.
"Our confidence is down," Boylan said. "First of all, we need to get our guys believing in themselves again. That's not always an easy thing to do."
Paxson gave Boylan no assurances beyond this season.
"He's got a chance now," Paxson said. "As we talked about, it's a job interview for me and the rest of the league.
"He's been in the league for about 15 years and hasn't had a chance to be a head coach. He had some real concrete ideas on his own.
"It's going to take some time. But anytime there's a change, players have to look at themselves."