In a move that has long been suspected, the Chicago Bulls officially dismissed Tom Thibodeau as head coach of the team on Thursday.
The announcement comes after years of tension between Thibodeau and Bulls front office staff members John Paxson and Gar Forman. The Bulls officially announced Thibodeau’s dismissal via a release on their website. Team owner Jerry Reinsdorf had some words of praise for Thibodeau in the release, but he also wrote at great length of the discontent between his head coach and top executives. The bulk of the release was made-up of this statement from Reinsdorf, and he contends that a coaching change for the Bulls is needed for his team to continue to progress toward a championship.
“The Chicago Bulls have a history of achieving great success on and off the court. These accomplishments have been possible because of an organizational culture where input from all parts of the organization has been welcomed and valued, there has been a willingness to participate in a free flow of information, and there have been clear and consistent goals. While the head of each department of the organization must be free to make final decisions regarding his department, there must be free and open interdepartmental discussion and consideration of everyone’s ideas and opinions. These internal discussions must not be considered an invasion of turf, and must remain private. Teams that consistently perform at the highest levels are able to come together and be unified across the organization-staff, players, coaches, management and ownership. When everyone is on the same page, trust develops and teams can grow and succeed together. Unfortunately, there has been a departure from this culture. To ensure that the Chicago Bulls can continue to grow and succeed, we have decided that a change in the head coaching position is required. Days like today are difficult, but necessary for us to achieve our goals and fulfill our commitments to our fans. I appreciate the contributions that Tom Thibodeau made to the Bulls organization. I have always respected his love of the game and wish him well in the future.”
Thibodeau was hired by the Bulls in 2010, and he proceeded to guide the team to the best record in the NBA and the Eastern Conference Finals during his first years as head coach. The following season (2011-2012), the Bulls again held the best record in the NBA but were bounced in the first round of the playoffs following Derrick Rose’s ACL tear.
The next two seasons in Chicago were marred by injuries for Thibodeau’s squad, losing Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, and others for considerable stretches of time in the playoffs and regular season. It was during this period that a rift developed between Thibodeau, Paxson, and Forman, with the executive staff apparently believing that Tom played his roster too many minutes during the regular season.
This year, the front office put a minutes restriction on Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose following offseason surgeries. This further added to the rift between Thibodeau and the front office staff. Even so, the Bulls entered the 2015 postseason as healthy as they had been since that 2011 Eastern Conference Finals birth. However, the Bulls lost a heartbreaking series to an undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers squad in six games, all but sealing the fate of Tom Thibodeau as Bulls coach moving forward.
The hottest name tied to the now-vacant Bulls job is Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg. Bulls GM Gar Forman has ties to Iowa State as a former assistant coach at the university, and this would not be the first time the Bulls have looked to the Cyclones for a new head coach. Chicago hired Iowa State head coach Tim Floyd in July 1998 following Phil Jackson’s exit from the Bulls.
Other names the Bulls are reportedly interested in include Golden State Warriors associate head coach Alvin Gentry and Tom Thibodeau’s former associate head coach in Chicago, Adrian Griffin.
[Image via SunTimes.com]