Rival Exec Sounds Off on Bulls HC Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls looks on

This is a critical season for the Chicago Bulls. They supplemented splashy moves over the last 18 months with a more subdued approach to this offseason. In that respect, it is very reminiscent of Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas’ first season in Chicago.

After taking over a team with 44 wins total over the previous two seasons, Karnisovas used his first season to evaluate what he had inherited.

The Bulls won 46 games after trades landed several key pieces.

Now, they are banking on improved health and internal development to take the next step. A big part of that will fall on Billy Donovan’s shoulders. And one rival executive thinks there might be a little more significance to this coming season.

Pressure in Year 3

A lot of offseason chatter has surrounded Bulls forward Patrick Williams. The third-year forward is expected to take a leap after an offseason spent working with the likes of teammate DeMar DeRozan as well as Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George and others.

Some have chided the Bulls for putting so much responsibility on the youngest starter. Others would like to see them put additional duties on the 20-year-old.

All of that comes back to Donovan who is also heading into his third year with the Bulls.

“Any time a coach has been around three years, I think he starts to feel it a bit, like you’ve got to move forward,” the Eastern Conference exec told Heavy’s Sean Deveney. “There’s a reason teams give coaches four-year contracts, like what Billy has. So there’s pressure.”

Donovan did lead the Bulls to their first playoff berth in five years.

The Bulls got 76 games out of the top two point guards last season in Lonzo Ball and backup Alex Caruso. They also got just five games out of Williams before he suffered a wrist injury that limited him to 17 regular-season games.

But despite the Bulls’ lack of splashy moves this offseason, the executive thinks the pressure could be ratcheted up on Donovan.

“Especially, they feel they have improved, they brought in guys to win now and what did it get them, out in the first round? No one blames that on Billy, not with the injuries they had, but you’ve got to take a step forward or else, definitely, there is pressure.

His Own Toughest Critic

Donovan was a surprise hire, coming free from the Oklahoma City Thunder after it appeared the Bulls were set to hire an assistant coach. He also did not come without questions after four consecutive first-round exits with more talented teams than he took over.

That streak is now up to five straight first-round outs after the Bulls fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in five games this past season.

Anybody that thinks these things don’t resonate with the coach should think again, the executive says

“With Billy, probably the most pressure comes from himself.”

Donovan is no stranger to holding himself accountable to the public in lesser moments, either, calling himself out following a blowout loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

Pressure Up on Everyone

Aside from the pressure being put on Williams, there is pressure on Zach LaVine following his franchise-record max contract – which he says he doesn’t feel. There is also DeMar DeRozan looking to again defy Father Time.

Or Nikola Vucevic who will be playing for a new contract with the Bulls or elsewhere after next season.

Ball, Coby White, the list of players continues.

But there is pressure on Karnisovas too after expending a lot of daft and financial capital to put this group together. And, yes, the pressure is on Donovan to show he can better adapt to some of the curveballs that will undoubtedly come the Bulls’ way next season.