Martin Luther King Jr. Park looks like any other park in America and the same goes for its courts. But to East Grand Rapids Native Jim Boylen, this is sacred ground.
“It was called Franklin Park then. There are a lot of memories here,” he reflects. “I never was one of the better players. I was always one of those guys that played hard and tried to grind my way through.”
It was here where the 55-year old-veteran coach developed his love for basketball, a game that has taken him all over the country. Now as head coach of the Chicago Bulls, the Second City is where he lives. But truth be told, it’s still second in his heart.
“There is no place I’ve been like Western Michigan, no place,” the former EGR Pioneer says.
Boylen says he comes home often. It’s his getaway from the pressures of a high-profile coaching job. Two years ago, at the age of 53, he become a first time NBA head coach but throughout his tenure, the Bulls have struggled and there’s been a never-ending supply of rumors his job is on the line. He admits he hears what some are saying but he knows he can’t let it can’t to him.
“In a market like Chicago, you are going to have some of that,” he says. “I’m pretty good at blocking out the noise and you are going to have noise at this level.”
Years ago, Boylen learned the hard way that basketball can sometimes be a cold-hearted business. However, he says hasn’t had any problems keeping his passion for the game.
“I could not imagine not going to practice, being part of the team, putting your hand in the huddle with a group of guys (and) trying to accomplish something.”
To Boylen, that’s when basketball is at it’s best and no matter where he’s working, he’ll never forget that it was in Grand Rapids, where he saw it first.
More stories on 13 ON YOUR SIDE:
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.