Let me be crystal clear before I start. Based on the performance of the Chicago Bulls against the Phoenix Suns last game, Tom Thibodeau probably cemented himself as one of the top five coaches in the NBA. Based on what he has to deal with behind the scenes in the Bulls organization, I think he might be the BEST coach in the NBA. Before everyone starts bringing out names like Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich or Eric Spoelstra, think for a second. Look at the situations Thibodeau has to coach under for the last two seasons. Derrick Rose’s injuries, Deng being out in the playoffs last year, Carlos Boozer not being consistent enough, the list goes on and on. But there is one situation that reared it’s ugly head in the offseason and is starting to become the elephant in the room. There is a serious disconnect between Tom Thibodeau and Bulls management consisting of John Paxson and Gar Forman.
The rumors have been going for a while that the relationship between the two parties has been as chilly as the polar vortex that barreled through Chicago this week. Now it cannot be ignored and it is something that has to addressed in the very near future for this franchise to go forward. One thing we all know is going to happen, Coach Thibodeau will coach and get maximum effort out of anyone that steps foot on the floor that has a Bulls uniform on. The thing that we all DON’T know yet is, will it matter?
I remember years ago, someone gave me a piece of advice that I will carry for the rest of my life. “The job becomes easier when you figure out who you can count on and who you can’t.” Right now, based on the extenuating circumstances this year, Tom Thibodeau is in for a rough time to end this season. In the offseason, the Bulls management decided not to resign Thibodeau’s lead assistant Ron Adams for reasons that to this day has not been disclosed. Thibodeau had to be upset that his right hand man was dismissed. Now Luol Deng, Coach Thibs’ favorite and most trusted player on both ends of the floor was shipped off to Cleveland for a since waived Andrew Bynum and a couple of draft picks. With all the rumors of change (also read…rebuilding, retooling and tanking) what message is the front office sending to Tom Thibodeau? The coach does not believe in giving a season away, plus he has players like Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson Jimmy Butler and a few others on the bench that follows his philosophies to the letter.
If you are Tom Thibodeau, you have to frustrated at this point. I will not pretend to know what is going on behind the scenes in the Bulls organization because I don’t. But looking from the outside in, it does look like everyone wants the coach to turn goat’s milk into gasoline. It’s one thing to tell this man to go out and win games, but it’s another to take away all of the resources needed to do it. I do not have an issue with the trade of Deng because it was needed to be done for the future of the franchise. I do however have an issue with not bringing something back for Thibodeau to use in the short term. The Bulls have been short on players all year long. Do you really think that this is going to help?
NBA coaches are not as revered as in the past. Think I’m lying? Why don’t you ask last year’s “Coach of the Year” George Karl how much head coaches are appreciated these days. After you ask him, go take a look at how the Denver Nuggets are doing this year while Karl is doing analyst work over at ESPN. Why don’t we give former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins a call? He only led the Grizzlies to the playoffs on multiple occasions. After we hang up, let’s take a look at how they are doing. Need one more example? Avery Johnson was fired before Christmas last year by Brooklyn when they were at .500. Uh, the long term replacement? Jason Kidd. Starting to see a scenario building here?
About a month ago, rumors started floating around that James Dolan, the New York Knicks owner wanted Tom Thibodeau to coach the Knicks. Back then, I would told the coach to run. Now, I’m not so sure. Remember, Tom Thibodeau is used to WINNING! He was the assistant coach on the 2008 Boston Celtics championship squad. Once you get a taste of winning, you get used to it and won’t accept less. Doc Rivers did not want a rebuilding situation in Boston and bailed out. Phil Jackson, one of the greatest coaches of all time, will not consider coming to a situation with the word “rebuild” as a part of the scenario. As bad as the Knicks look, they have more pieces than the Bulls right now. It’s just that none of them listen to Mike Woodson. Think of where they would be if Thibodeau did his thing there?
It’s time for evaluation and reflection for Mr. Thibs. He has to ask himself, is there a future here in Chicago? Am I appreciated? Is it time for a change? Sometimes, relationships evolve for the better, sometimes for the worse. Right now, that’s the questions facing Tom Thibodeau going forward.