Chicago Bulls Players Want Coach Tom Thibodeau to Remain a Bull


After another premature exit from the playoffs, the Chicago Bulls enter the 2015 off-season with a boatload of questions regarding the future trajectory of the franchise. First and foremost on the “to-do list” is figuring out whether to part ways with Coach Tom Thibodeau. Reports have long indicated that the relationship between Thibodeau and management is irreparable. However, the actual players on the team that intimately interact with Thibodeau on a daily basis have expressed nothing but a desire to see their coach return for a sixth season with the Chicago Bulls.

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Despite a report by ESPN’s Marc Stein that Thibodeau is interested in the vacant head coaching position with the New Orleans Hornets, the Bulls coach has publicly stated that he expects to stay in Chicago for another season.

"Until they tell me I’m not [the coach], I expect to be here. So that’s the way I’m approaching it."

Many of Thibodeau’s players have publicly expressed an overwhelming desire to see their coach return next season. Point guard Derrick Rose wants to continue to foster the bond the two have created over their five years working together.

"“Thibs, we grew a bond together. With him being [an assistant coach] on USA Basketball. Him coming out to L.A. to check up on me after my surgeries when I was working out out there. I think we really have a bond, so it’s not up to my decision. I loved him as a coach.”"

The bond between these two men is special. Through all the knee injuries, Thibodeau never publicly criticized Rose for how he handled the situation and supported him throughout his entire rehabilitation process. Rose returned the favor, refusing to berate Thibodeau despite all the criticism about the coach overloading minutes and running his players into the ground.

Nov 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau smiles at Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) during the second half of the Chicago Bulls 109-102 win over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Although he was noncommittal with his comments regarding Thibodeau, Bulls center Joakim Noah had high praise for his coach of five seasons.

"“I think Thibs is a hard worker and somebody who’s always had us prepared. Now we just don’t know the situation [with] anybody. We lost in the second round, but [there’s been] a lot of great memories, and that’s all I can say."

How these comments are interpreted is ultimately up to the reader, but it seems pretty obvious that Noah has enjoyed his time playing under Thibodeau and doesn’t want the experience to end anytime soon.

Mar 6, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) and coach Tom Thibodeau react after a call during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Chicago 98-84. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In addition, Thibodeau still has two years and $9 million on the contract that he signed in October, 2012 which makes parting ways with the coach a less than ideal situation. If the Bulls do decide to part ways with Thibodeau, they are losing a coach that has a record of 278-167 (62.4 percent). He has been instrumental in the development of this core group of guys: Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose have all thrived under his tutelage.

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  • The list of reasons for the Bulls keeping Thibodeau is extensive and convincing. Paramount among that list of reasons is the desire of the Bulls players to still have Thibodeau as their head coach. In his Saturday column, Chicago Tribune writer David Haugh wrote that the Bulls won’t find a new coaching candidate that is a better fit for this team and these players than Thibodeau is.

    "Unless Thibodeau’s successor is Doc Rivers or Gregg Popovich, no new coach will be more qualified to get the Bulls to the NBA Finals quicker. Unless Thibodeau unseats David Blatt in Cleveland — possible, but still a long shot — it’s hard to imagine any team Thibs inherits being closer to winning their conference than the Bulls. Sorry, drama kings, both Thibodeau and the Bulls are better together than apart."

    Reports are indicating that a split between the Chicago Bulls and Tom Thibodeau isn’t just likely, but inevitable. Even way back in January, media was already reporting about the irreparable rift between Thibodeau and management.

    K.C Johnson; Chicago Tribune; January 29, 2015

    "And while there are no plans to replace Thibodeau during the season, a mutual parting of the ways after this season wouldn’t surprise many league personnel familiar with the deteriorating dynamic."

    The Bulls are at a major crossroads right now. The conflict comes down to damaged egos, and unfortunately for Thibodeau, management—his bosses—have the final say on his future.

    If Gar Forman and John Paxson really care about the future of this franchise, they will take into consideration the wishes of the players on this roster. And they will pay particular mind to specially those that have worked with Thibodeau for the majority of their careers.

    Sep 29, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman during media day at the Advocate Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Bonds such as the one between Thibodeau and many of his players take years to form and are nearly impossible to replicate. Over the five years that he has coached in Chicago, a culture has been developed that the players have bought into completely. This is special: a key ingredient to success that many teams simply do not have.

    Whether the Chicago Bulls ultimately decide to part ways with Coach Tom Thibodeau is up for debate. However, one thing is crystal clear: the Bulls organization will never find a replacement coach that this group of players trusts more or plays harder for than coach Thibodeau. This fact alone should save his job.

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