The Chicago Bulls have fired coach Tom Thibodeau.
The split was expected as there have been rumblings about Thibodeau’s rocky relationship with the Bulls front office throughout the year.
On Wednesday night, the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson reported new details on how tumultuous the Bulls’ relationship with Thibodeau had become.
According to Johnson, multiple sources said players endorsed moving on from Thibodeau during their exit interviews. Players also were reportedly working out in a different gyms to avoid running into Thibodeau, who “rarely leaves the practice facility.”
Additionally, Johnson reports that while Thibodeau and GM Gar Forman saw each other during Forman’s “occasional forays” into Thibodeau’s office, Thibodeau and John Paxson, the executive vice president of basketball operations, haven’t talked since January. The last time they spoke was when Paxson suggested Thibodeau cancel practice to have an open meeting with players to discuss a slump in which the team was mired.
Johnson adds, “Thibodeau’s isolation has grown so acute that he typically spends all day behind his closed office door, sources said.”
While everyone thought Thibodeau would leave Chicago this summer, it is surprising that the Bulls fired him. After the season ended, it seemed the Bulls and Thibodeau would engage in a staring contest as Chicago didn’t want to spend the money to fire Thibodeau, who reportedly wanted the $US9 million remaining on his contract.
It looked the most likely outcome would be to trade Thibodeau to a team with a coaching vacancy for a draft pick or cash. Knowing the Bulls wanted to separate from Thibodeau, however, teams presumably didn’t want to give up assets for a coach they could get for nothing if he was fired.
The Bulls released a less-than-flattering press release to announce Thibodeau’s firing, in which they seem to hint at a lack of communication and disagreements over game strategies and players’ minutes, widely regarded as Thibodeau’s biggest flaw:
“While the head of each department of the organisation 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 organisation-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.”
Thibodeau will now become one of the most coveted head coaches in the NBA. Though his tendency to over-work players may scare some teams, his Bulls teams were consistently one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, and he has a reputation for getting the most out of a team, even amongst Chicago’s slew of injuries in recent seasons.
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