It seems like we talk about basketball teams irrationally firing (or potentially firing) their coaches in this space. It’s going to become a ritual, I feel. I could have written an article bemoaning the Monty Williams firing in New Orleans, but it was far less abominable than what is most likely about to happen in Chicago. Tom Thibodeau, coach of the Bulls, cultivator of one of the league’s best defenses year after year for the last five years, and creator of an undeniable, tenacious, no-excuses culture that has grown in the Windy City and has been demonstrated the two seasons largely without former league MVP Derrick Rose, is about to be fired.
We all know what’s up here. According to reports, the man they call “Thibs” and team management simply do not get along. It isn’t even a dispute about money or contractual obligations, either: Thibodeau has 2 years and $9 million left on his contract. Surely, the organization feels like it probably should have won an NBA championship by now, and while that can be easily said, it is constantly underrated by fans and executives just how difficult it is to win a championship in the NBA, and its no wonder why the Bulls haven’t; injuries. It can also easily be said that Thibs’ rotation management and his minutes allotment has been, uh, not great (Luol Deng playing himself sick in the 2013 Playoffs to the point of having to receive a spinal tap, which briefly put his playing career and possibly his life in peril; keeping Derrick Rose in Game 1 of the 2012 Playoffs’ first round when the game was in hand, at the end of which Rose tore his ACL and would never be the same), he has constantly gotten the most effort and the best performance possible out of his team.
Over his five years with the Bulls, Thibs has accumulated a .647 winning percentage, making the playoffs every year in which he was there. Also, he never finished lower than second in his division, and while that division has not exactly been hyper-competitive in Thibodeau’s tenure in Chicago, we have to give credit where credit is so obviously due. The Bulls also won 50 or more games in three of those five years, and while that has been done in the inferior Western Conference, credit is also due there. Also, he has helped bring along the defensive prowess of young players such as Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Rose, and Taj Gibson.
While this year’s result is clearly not what the Bulls wanted, they shouldn’t fire Thibs because of it. They ultimately will fire him, only because it is apparent that he has absolutely no relationship with the higher-ups in Bulls management. Their performance against the Cavs last night was not exactly killer, but management should not overreact to that either; the Cavs are much better without Kevin Love than I think we all thought they were. However, it’s a shame for the Bulls organization, as they will be missing out on one of the best head coaches in the NBA for at least the next two years. If and when Thibodeau is canned, it is likely either assistant coach Adrian Griffin, Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg, or Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry who will take his place. Thibodeau could then either go to New Orleans or Orlando, and it is at least possible that the Bulls could trade Thibodeau for draft picks, as the Celtics did with Doc Rivers in 2013. If he goes to the Pelicans, oh boy. A young team, learning under one of the defensive masterminds of the game, a budding superstar and MVP in Anthony Davis, with all of that to learn? Watch out, NBA. That is the more likely scenario. He could also wind up in Orlando, but that will be a much longer rebuilding process than with the Pelicans, who already made the playoffs this year.
However, he won’t be in Chicago. That’s wrong.