Arturas Karnisovas Hired as Bulls' Executive VP of Basketball Ops.
The Chicago Bulls have hired Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas as their executive vice president of basketball operations.
Chicago confirmed the news on Monday after ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported he was set to be hired on April 8.
"Arturas is one of the most respected basketball executives in the NBA," Bulls President and COO Michael Reinsdorf said in a team release. "His resume speaks for itself. I am thrilled that he is now a member of the Bulls. As the new head of basketball operations, I am confident that his vision, ability to lead and experience helping build winning teams in Houston and Denver will serve him well here. I am very pleased to welcome him and his family to the City of Chicago and have him officially join our organization."
Wojnarowski noted Karnisovas will be responsible for hiring a new general manager for the team and reconstructing the front office.
"This is the height of a dream for me, and I am prepared for the challenge that it presents," Karnisovas said in the official announcement. "I grew up watching the Chicago Bulls. They represented American basketball and the NBA to a kid from Lithuania. I've always had a love for this franchise, and to be a part of it and influence its revival is a privilege. I want to thank Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf and the entire Bulls organization for presenting me with this opportunity and welcoming me and my family to Chicago."
Karnisovas later spoke on a conference call, saying that perspective was needed, because of "real hardship," a reference to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Our goal is to bring a championship to the city of Chicago."
"Chicago is a great sports town with a robust history," Karnisovas said. "Earning the enthusiasm and excitement back from the fans is a challenge and something I look forward to."
Per Mike Singer of the Denver Post, the 48-year-old Karnisovas has been the Nuggets' GM for three seasons and worked in the organization for seven. Prior to Denver, Karnisovas worked in the NBA's basketball operations office from 2003 to 2008 and as an international scout for the Houston Rockets from 2008 to 2013.
Karnisovas also played professional basketball from 1987 to 2002 and was named the FIBA European Player of the Year in 1996. He won two bronze medals for Lithuania in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games.
Karnisovas played college hoops at Seton Hall.
The move was expected after Wojnarowski reported on April 8 that Karnisovas was considered the "clear front-runner" for the job, and it's easy to see why.
Aside from his lengthy playing and executive experience, Karnisovas also helped Denver turn into one of the Western Conference's top teams thanks to some shrewd drafting (e.g., All-Star Nikola Jokic 41st overall and Gary Harris 19th in 2014), sharp trades (e.g., acquiring Will Barton from the Portland Trail Blazers) and a successful coaching hire in Mike Malone.
The Jokic pick has transformed Denver into a legitimate West contender, and Mile High Sports' TJ McBride wrote about Karnisovas' influence in picking the big man in the midst of the executive's other accomplishments:
"Karnisovas has been involved in all of Denver's most impactful decisions since the resurrection of the franchise. Denver went from a disaster to one of the most promising young rosters in the league and Karnisovas has his fingerprints on everything. He led the charge by spearheading the selection of Nikola Jokic in 2014, was a massive help in scouting international players of all kinds, and was the ideal complement to [president of basketball operations Tim Connelly's] approach.
"(Karnisovas is said to be organized beyond belief and extremely stoic in his approach while Connelly is known to be a bit more energetic and imaginative.) Now the Nuggets have arguably their best chance at a NBA title that their organization has ever had and that would not be true if it wasn't for Karnisovas' contributions."
The Nuggets went 46-36 in 2017-18 after three straight losing seasons but missed the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.
They finished second in the West the year after, improving by seven wins and were slated to compete for the No. 2 seed once again in 2019-20 before the season was suspended March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. There is no timetable for the league's 2019-20 resumption as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
As for what's next for the Bulls, Chris Emma of 670 The Score said that Jim Boylen's time as head coach could come to an end. Boylen went 39-84 running the Bulls over the past two years.
David Kaplan of SportsTalk Live reported similarly, saying he expected Karnisovas to hire an entirely new coaching staff.
Karnisovas comes to Chicago with a ringing endorsement from his old boss in Denver, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly.
"[Connelly] maintains that there is almost no one alive who can step into any gym in the world and be as respected as Nuggets' general manager Arturas Karnisovas is," McBride wrote.
The compliments poured in regarding the reported hire afterward.
"Arturas Karnisovas is a great hire by the Bulls. Karnisovas is highly respected in the basketball world after playing overseas for many years, then working in the NBA office before going to the team side. He's got a stoic personality, and he's insightful. Chicago got a good one," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote.
And an NBA head coach said the following to Kaplan: "Tremendous hire. Smart, great person and extremely well connected. The Bulls got this right if they can seal the deal."
Karnisovas is entrusted with turning around a Bulls team that has made the playoffs just once in the past five seasons and has not finished higher than 42-40 in the standings since 2014-15. On the plus side, Karnisovas has all of the team's draft picks at his disposal, plus an extra second-rounder each in the 2021 and 2022 drafts.
Chicago was 22-43 and 11th in the Eastern Conference when the season was suspended.