There have been no shortage of reported reasons for a rift between Tom Thibodeau on the Bulls’ front office:
- The Bulls delaying Thibodeau’s contract extension
- General manager Gar Forman firing assistant coach Ron Adams
- Thibodeau giving top players heavy minutes
- The front office telling Thibodeau how to manage playing time
- The Bulls trading Luol Deng
Forman denies any discussion about Thibodeau’s job security, but there’s too much wood in the fire for speculation to stop.
several league sources believe Thibodeau’s relationship with management is beyond repair.
And while there are no plans to replace Thibodeau during the season, a mutual parting of the ways after this season wouldn’t surprise many league personnel familiar with the deteriorating dynamic.
If that’s true, it’s a shame.
Forman has built a deep and talented roster, and Thibodeau has coached it well. With both in place, the Bulls have gone 62-20, 50-16, 45-37, 48-34 and 30-17. The team has typically played elite defense (this year excepted) and found ways to overcome repeated injuries to Derrick Rose.
Chicago is definitely a championship contender this season – because of both Thibodeau and Forman.
Yes, Thibodeau should probably go easier on his players in games and practices, so he doesn’t wear them out. But how stubborn does management want to be over this issue when Thibodeau does so much else incredibly well?
If the Bulls let Thibodeau – who has two seasons after this one remaining on his contract – leave, he’ll have no shortage of suitors. The Warriors and Lakers reportedly had interest last offseason, and Thibodeau and the Knicks have been linked. Those teams might not have vacancies this summer, but that Thibodeau drew so much interest while under contract is telling. Teams would line up for a completely available Thibodeau. But would any of them have a roster as strong as Chicago’s?
The Bulls could easily get a coach who’s more agreeable with the front office, but he likely wouldn’t be as good in a vacuum. Is that worth the tradeoff?
Before either side asks those questions, they should work harder to repair this arrangement. Maybe it can’t be saved. Maybe it’s too late.
It’s definitely worth trying, though.