The Chicago Bulls made the inevitable into reality early Thursday, firing five-year head coach Tom Thibodeau. The move came after multiple seasons of frigidity and acrimony between Thibodeau and his front office had risen to the point that owner Jerry Reinsdorf, typically distant from team operations, become involved. Here’s what Reinsdorf had to say in the press release:
Recent reports indicate that Reinsdorf was especially miffed by Jeff Van Gundy, a confidante of Thibodeau’s, speaking ill of the team during ABC broadcasts. Nothing Van Gundy said was off base, of course: The Bulls have an organizational history of feeling insecure about the greatness of those they employ, and make their stars — however big, however valuable — uncomfortable over time.
Just ask Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson. Or Thibodeau’s predecessor, Scott Skiles, who was fired on Christmas Eve. This is a franchise that has long been its own worst enemy, bungling success when it gets large enough and starts feeling that proper credit hasn’t been given to the characters operating behind the curtains.
To be sure, this is a front office with considerable basketball acumen. Their record in the NBA Draft has been stellar for close to a decade, with Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler all blossoming into outstanding players. But you can expect the Bulls to continue having bad luck on the free agency market so long as this is how they treat people.
The salty words of Reinsdorf’s press release are in line with the harsh handle they’ve had with their icons, and Thibodeau is most certainly a Chicago icon now; not only does he have the best record of any Bulls coach who isn’t Jackson, but he joins the illustrious ranks of Reinsdorf-induced martyrdom. That annal spreads to Reinsdorf’s Chicago White Sox, too — in 1986, that team had an ugly divorce with none other than Tony La Russa.
The Bulls are expected to close on Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg soon. Hoiberg has long been rumored to be next in line after Thibodeau, as he has a good relationship with the front office. Maybe he won't, though, if he becomes too successful.
— John Wilmes