Jeff Van Gundy was always a thorn in the side of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. Taking over for Pat Riley when he left the New York Knicks for the Miami Heat, he persisted in coaching squads that did everything they could to batter MJ and the Bulls to death.
Now Van Gundy is all but retired from coaching, working color commentary for ESPN and ABC. But his ire for Chicago’s basketball club doesn’t seem to have changed as his job has.
Among swirling rumors of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau — a former assistant to Van Gundy with the Knicks and Houston Rockets — potentially being on the hot seat, JVG let loose on the Bulls’ front office on a January 23, ESPN telecast of a Bulls game against the Dallas Mavericks.
“I think right now, it’s almost criminal … what [Thibodeau is] having to endure with some of the fringe media,” Van Gundy said. “Attacking his job status, attacking his personality. This isn’t new to Chicago Bulls basketball, all the way back to Phil Jackson. The team has publicly supported their coach while privately, oftentimes, undermining that same person. You saw it with Vinny Del Negro, Scott Skiles. Think about it, they ran Phil Jackson out after winning all those championships.
“Listen, I read every Chicago story and there is no doubt that the Bulls organization has the media, with a few exceptions, in their hip pocket. And for whatever reason, they have taken their sights on Thibodeau when all he’s done is deliver greatness here in his five years.”
Van Gundy has been told to cool it by Thibodeau’s agent, among others, but he’s apparently not getting the message. During the Bulls’ 98-86 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on ABC yesterday, Jeff poured some salt in Bulls general manager John Paxson’s wounds.
"John was really mad at me,” Van Gundy said. “I mean, it's not like I traded LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas.”
Cruelly bringing up bad moves of management past? This sounds eerily similar to the way our president recently ripped on Michael Jordan…