Jim Boylan's Friday started at 6 a.m. with his Labrador retriever staring him in the face, demanding a walk, and piles of garbage and recycling to take to the curb.
It ended, near 10 p.m., with him strolling down a United Center hallway, a 103-99 Bulls victory under his belt and a smile of weary satisfaction on his face.
"I've been chasing this for a long time," Boylan said.
In his first game as interim head coach, Boylan watched the Bulls rally from a 10-point, third-quarter deficit with a spirited effort that jazzed the sellout crowd of 22,189.
Ben Gordon, who scored 31 points in his return to the role of sixth man, made two free throws with 1 minute 39 seconds remaining to snap a 91-91 tie.
Then the real fireworks started.
Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak strongly protested officials ruling a loose ball had gone off Royal Ivey as he and Kirk Hinrich dived to the floor. Replays indicated Krystkowiak had a legitimate beef.
When Luol Deng tipped in Gordon's miss on the ensuing possession, Krystkowiak became enraged. He stormed onto the court and got in official Derrick Collins' face, drawing two technical fouls, an ejection and a possible suspension.
Krystkowiak left the court kicking chairs and wastebaskets. Gordon made both technical free throws with 78 seconds remaining for a 97-91 lead.
But first Ben Wallace and then Hinrich inexplicably fouled Michael Redd, who led all scorers with 34 points, on three-pointers in the final 24.4 seconds.
He made 4 of 6, and that made the ending interesting until Andres Nocioni split two free throws with 14 seconds left for a four-point lead.
"We asked our guys to compete, and we accomplished that," Boylan said. "Everyone picked up their effort level. I couldn't be happier for our guys."
If the Bulls had played with this much energy more consistently this season, Scott Skiles would still be employed.
Deng had 28 points and 10 rebounds. Hinrich had 11 points and nine assists. Wallace grabbed 10 rebounds.
"I think we've been a little slow in our transition," Boylan said. "I'd like to see our guys run the floor for layups rather than just run to the foul line extended area and pull up and stop."
"We may have to tighten up the rotation," Boylan said. "That doesn't mean anybody is buried or in the doghouse. I just believe some of our guys have had trouble finding a rhythm."
Those players know they must be accountable.
"I felt like it has been on us all along, but especially now," said Hinrich, who presented Boylan with the game ball in front of the team afterward. "We have to perform. We haven't got off to the start we wanted to. But there are still a lot of games to be played."
Boylan admitted to butterflies beforehand. He fielded several calls from old friends and a particularly calming one from Jud Heathcote, whom he assisted at Michigan State.
"This was an emotional day," Boylan said, stopping to fight back tears. "My family is here. And that means a lot."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun