CHICAGO (CBS) — The Bulls have hired former Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas as their new executive vice president of basketball operations, replacing John Paxson, who will now become a senior advisor. The team also has fired general manager Gar Forman.
Karnisovas, 48, most recently had been general manager of the Denver Nuggets since 2018, and has been with that team’s front office since 2013.
“This is the height of a dream for me, and I am prepared for the challenge that it presents,” said Karnisovas. “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.”
The decision to hire Karnisovas as the new top basketball executive was first reported last week, but wasn’t made official until Monday.
“Arturas is one of the most respected basketball executives in the NBA. His resumé speaks for itself. I am thrilled that he is now a member of the Bulls,” team president Michael Reinsdorf said in a statement. “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.”
He will take over for John Paxson, whose new role will be senior advisor of basketball operations.
“John has an invaluable perspective on our organization and where we want to be, and he played an instrumental role in this change by bringing forward the idea of a restructure and reorganization. I have always held his knowledge and basketball insight in the highest regard, and he has earned my respect as well as that of his peers. His decision to take on a new role reflects what I’ve always known about John – that he is forever a willing teammate on and off of the court and always does what he believes is in the best interest of the Chicago Bulls,” chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said.
After retiring from his playing career in 1994, the Bulls hired Paxson as an assistant coach in 1995. He then moved to the radio booth, spending seven seasons as a broadcaster before he was hired as general manager in 2003, when Jerry Krause retired. Paxson then became vice president of basketball operations in 2009, when Forman was hired as GM.
“When I came here in 1985, I never imagined what the Chicago Bulls would mean to me more than 35 years later. While I’m in a new role and a new phase in my life, what won’t ever change is my commitment to the Bulls and appreciation to Jerry and Michael for the incredible opportunities I’ve been afforded. I’ve had the rare opportunity to see this team as a player, broadcaster and executive, and at every turn I’ve been fortunate to experience what makes this organization so special – people who give their best every day and work together as a team, as well as our incredible fans who support us. I’ve always tried to do what was best for our organization and put our team in position to succeed, and ultimately compete. I know Arturas will do the same. He brings the kind of talent, experience and commitment to collaboration that will allow him to succeed in his new role. I truly believe this is a great opportunity for the Bulls organization and that there are bright days ahead,” Paxson said.
Shortly after the team made Karnisovas’ hiring official on Monday, they also fired Forman as general manager.
“Gar Forman worked tirelessly for the Chicago Bulls organization, first as a scout and then as an executive. He made many significant contributions during his time here and helped to bring some of the brightest young basketball talent to our team, from Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson to Jimmy Butler and Coby White. He has been a trusted advisor and friend to me over the years, and on behalf of everyone I want to thank him for his commitment to the organization. Gar will always be a part of our Bulls family,” Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement.
Forman will no longer be involved in basketball operations. There had been speculation he could stay on in a scouting role.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to work for the Chicago Bulls for more than two decades. There is no better ownership group in professional sports than the Reinsdorfs, and I want to thank Jerry and Michael for their support during my tenure. The Bulls organization will always hold a special place in my heart,” Forman said.
The future for Head Coach Jim Boylen is iffy at best – he will likely be fired, CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke reported. It is just a matter of when. For now, however, he is staying on as coach.
“I want to welcome Arturas to the Chicago Bulls. He has a wealth of experience as a player and executive, and a strong reputation within the basketball community. I commend Jerry and Michael for bringing Arturas on board,” Boylen said in a statement on Monday. “I am thankful for the support that John and Gar provided me and my staff when I became our head coach. Their commitment and belief in our team played a key role in helping me establish a foundation for how I wanted to coach our team. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate that. I wish them and their families nothing but the best.”
The Bulls have received rave reviews for the move to hire Karnisovas, who reportedly impressed in his interviews. Under his and president of basketball operations Tim Connelly’s direction, the Nuggets have gone from afterthought to Western Conference powerhouse. Karnisovas had a say in drafting foundational players like Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Michael Porter Jr.
Karnisovas has recently been considered for the top job with other NBA teams, including the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. If Tim Connelly had accepted the Washington Wizards’ job offer last year, Karnisovas likely would have taken over the top position in Denver.
Karnisovas worked for the NBA League Office, and then joined the Nuggets’ front office in 2013. He also spent five years with the Houston Rockets (2008-13), starting as their Director of Global Scouting before being elevated to Director of Scouting.
He played at Seton Hall, was on two Olympic teams for his native Lithuania, and has a lengthy European basketball résumé that includes stops in Italy, Greece, and Spain.
CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke chatted with Katie Wingee, of the Nuggets’ Altitude TV, about what the Bulls are getting in Karnisovas.
“He’s not a guy that works within a front office who just sits in his office all day long. He is constantly in the locker room talking with players. He’s talking with coaches. He’s a guy that, you know, will sit courtside and watch both teams warm up, and is mingling with, you know, NBA professionals and players from the other team, as well as media members and fans from around Denver,” Winge said. “So his presence is very well known, and Bulls fans will see that very quickly, and I think that an organization like Chicago that was really looking for a culture shift in a lot of ways, and someone to come in and have fresh ideas and a fresh voice and a fresh perspective, you couldn’t be anyone better. I can’t speak highly enough about the person that AK is.”
The hiring of Karnisovas, given his track record out west, certainly qualifies as positive change, and should provide hope to a Bulls organization not willing to settle for losing.
The Bulls haven’t reached 30 wins the past three seasons. (Tom Thibodeau’s exit in 2015 probably has something to do with it.) And their success under Forman and Paxson pales in comparison to their glory days. A wholesale rebuild, such as the one the Bulls have been mired in for three seasons, requires patience. But reports also suggest that patience has grown thin in Chicago. Lauri Markkanen, seen as a cornerstone, wants out if things don’t change and soon.