CHICAGO — Marc Eversley gets a chance to help restore an iconic NBA franchise and set an example for the city’s youth.
He welcomes the opportunities.
A former Nike executive who spent the past four years in Philadelphia’s front office, Eversley was introduced as the Bulls’ general manager on Friday. He succeeds the fired Gar Forman and will work under new top executive Arturas Karnisovas.
Eversley also becomes the Bulls’ first black general manager, after spending the past two years as the 76ers’ senior vice president of player personnel.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I take pride in that. I think it’s a tremendous responsibility. I am a black man, I’m in a leadership position now in a city with so many black youths. I see this as a great opportunity. I think being visible is going to be important. And being invested is going to be important. I think this position position with the Bulls provides me with some resources to help drive some change.”
Karnisovas said “it’s our responsibility” and “it falls on our shoulders” to seek diversity. He will work with Eversley to transform a young team that expected to contend for a playoff spot. Instead, the Bulls were 11th in the Eastern Conference at 22-43 and finishing their third straight losing season when the NBA suspended play due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the front-office leadership in place, the attention turns to coach Jim Boylen. That could take awhile.
Karnisovas and Eversley haven’t arrived in Chicago, let alone met face to face with Boylen or witness a practice. Front office hirings, player development and scouting were the more immediate priority because of the limitations brought on by the pandemic.
“I’m going to do my comprehensive evaluation of every department and ensure I give the process the time it deserves,” Karnisovas said. “We’re limited right now with what we can do.”
Eversley said they “owe it everybody on staff” to meet face-to-face in Chicago and watch practices before making any moves “with respect to anybody on the staff.”
Boylen has a 39-84 record since replacing Fred Hoiberg early last season. Whatever decision the Bulls make, it will be a joint one between Karnisovas and Eversley. The two will share responsibilities when it comes to internal team matters as well as serving as the public voice of the franchise.
Eversley was with the 76ers when they drafted two-time All-Star Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 and had a big hand in them trading up with Boston to get Matisse Thybulle at No. 20 last June. The rookie guard established himself as one of the NBA’s best young defenders this season.
The 76ers went from winning 28 games in 2016-17 to more than 50 the next two seasons. They were 39-26 when the NBA suspended play because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Canadian, Eversley spent a decade at Nike, managing company-owned retail stores in Ontario before moving to their corporate office in Oregon. He became the point person for their basketball player relationship division, then spent seven years in Toronto’s front office and three in Washington’s going to Philadelphia.
Eversley said he owes gratitude to Bryan Colangelo — his boss with the Raptors and Sixers — as well as Toronto executive Masai Ujiri, a close friend who “really introduced me to the art of scouting.”
The time at Nike taught him the value of relationships and a brand. Now, as he put it, it’s his job to help make the Bulls “cool again,” more than two decades after Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen completed their second championship three-peat. The spotlight is on the dynasty with ESPN airing “The Last Dance” docuseries.
After watching Sunday’s episodes, Karnisovas felt compelled to offer Eversley the job that night rather than wait until the next morning as planned.
“I was so emotional watching it that I was thinking, ‘Why do I have to wait until Monday? Let me check if he’s up,‘” Karnisovas said. “He responds that he didn’t get a chance to watch it live, and now they’re replaying it again on ESPN. So he’s on his couch watching. It’s late. It’s around 1 a.m. Eastern time, so I’m doing the same. But now, I’m calling him to offer him the job while ‘The Last Dance’ is in the background.”