CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls came into the season thinking they would start to climb in the wide-open Eastern Conference with a promising group of young players. A coaching change wasn’t part of the plan.

The skidding Bulls fired Fred Hoiberg on Monday and promoted Associate Head Coach Jim Boylen in hopes of turning around a miserable season. Chicago is averaging 103.4 points – 28th in the NBA – and is getting outscored by 9.6 per game. They are a woeful 5-19, better only than Cleveland and Phoenix.

Boylen starred in the 1980s at the University of Maine, where he was the Black Bears’ captain as a junior and senior. He averaged 21 points per game as a senior in 1986-87.

Hoiberg, who had to deal with a veteran roster that didn’t fit his style early on and then injuries to key players starting in training camp, never found his footing in Chicago. It added up to a 115-155 mark with one playoff appearance in three-plus seasons.

Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson insisted the decision went beyond wins and losses, citing a lack of “energy and spirit.”

“We were in a similar situation last year at this time,” Paxson said. “But the entire energy about this group was different back then. We felt that here in the last several weeks, that something’s different. What we’re lacking … is a spirit about our team.”

Paxson also said the Bulls are committed to Boylen as their long-term head coach and that General Manager Gar Forman is “absolutely safe.”

“What I hope we can do is own ‘Bulls’ across our chest better,” said Boylen, who will be serving as an NBA head coach for the first time.

Boylen, 53, has been with the Bulls since 2015 after serving on Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff with the San Antonio Spurs. Boylen was the head coach at the University of Utah from 2007-11, compiling a 69-60 record in four seasons.

He becomes one of five NBA head coaches with ties to Maine, joining Steve Clifford of Orlando (UMaine-Farmington), Brett Brown of Philadelphia (South Portland High), Rick Carlisle of Dallas (UMaine) and Kenny Atkinson (Maine Central Institute) of Brooklyn.

Boylen becomes the sixth coach hired by the current front office. Over 20 years in the NBA, he also has been an assistant in Houston, Golden State, Milwaukee, Indiana and San Antonio.

Hoiberg was in a tough position this season with four of the team’s top players getting injured, a painful run that started early in training camp.

Forward Lauri Markkanen, the centerpiece of the Bulls’ rebuilding plan, missed the first 23 games after spraining his left elbow at practice in late September. His first appearance this season – a loss at Houston on Saturday – came in Hoiberg’s final game for Chicago.

Guard Denzel Valentine will miss the entire season because of a left ankle injury. Forward Bobby Portis (right knee) has played in four games and point guard Kris Dunn (left knee) has appeared in one, though both are expected back soon.

“For us to sit here and think that just because we’re getting guys back, I think that would mask the problems that we’ve seen,” Paxson said. “We gave Fred an opportunity. He did a lot of good things for us. But I’m tasked with, Gar’s tasked with, looking at the underlying things in the organization.”

Hoiberg played four seasons in Chicago and has a long history with Forman. He was hired as the Bulls’ head coach in June 2015 after spending five seasons at Iowa State, where the former player was nicknamed “The Mayor.” Hoiberg went 115-56 with the Cyclones, including four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and back-to-back Big 12 tournament titles.

He replaced Tom Thibodeau, who was fired after five seasons. The hope was that the free-wheeling style Hoiberg used with the Cyclones would work in the NBA.

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