Process Highlights Shortcomings of Chicago Bulls Front Office


When the Chicago Bulls fired Tom Thibodeau on May 28, they failed to completely unearth the root problem that has disallowed this franchise from maximizing their talent and potential over the last five seasons.

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The actions of Bulls general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson have greatly contributed to the downfalls of this organization, and if not rectified soon these downfalls will continue to plague this franchise even with a new head coach at the helm.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago Bulls officially revealed the worse-kept secret in the NBA. After being linked to the Bulls head coaching job for the better part of the 2014-15 season, former Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg was officially announced as the new head coach.

Jun 2, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; New Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg (right) speaks during a press conference at Advocate Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a short excerpt from Hoiberg’s introductory press conference via WGN-TV. The full press conference lasted approximately 45 minutes and was aired live on CSN-Chicago on Tuesday afternoon.

Throughout the process of firing Thibodeau and hiring Hoiberg, the Bulls front office has displayed their true colors for everybody to see. These true colors aren’t pretty and are hampering this franchise from reaching its true potential.

NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy continued his critical critique of the Bulls front office in a recent media call with

"To me, I think this is that the statement they put out when they let Tom go proves once again that every organization needs a vice president of common sense because when you have a public relations, high powered public relations business put that out and then you have multiple people have to co‑sign it to put it out, and it just absolutely wreaked of a lack of class, it shows that you just need somebody to say whoa.  Let’s just acknowledge his greatness, Thibodeau’s greatness, and let’s just move on, but it didn’t happen that way. And in some ways, in an odd way, I think it was good because, to me, that statement revealed exactly who each person was.  It reveals who Jerry Reinsdorf is.  It reveals who Gar Forman is.  And Tom Thibodeau’s statement reveals who he is.  Everybody had to put their name finally on who they were, and they did.  I think that’s great."

The shortcomings of the Bulls front office have been perpetually highlighted in neon yellow ink. It started with owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s statement that essentially laid blame on Thibodeau for problems that owed their root cause to the Bulls front office as much as they did from Thibodeau.

The organization’s statement unjustly pinned all of the Bulls problems on Thibodeau, instead of acknowledging that both sides were at fault to a degree.

Here’s a snippet of Reinsdorf’s statement following the official announcement of Thibodeau’s firing.

"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. … 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."

Essentially, this paragraph is Reinsdorf placing the blame for inter-organizational breakdowns in communication squarely on the shoulders of Thibodeau when the Bulls front office is equally at fault. Yes, Thibodeau undermined his superiors with his refusal to abide by the minute limits set forth by Forman and Paxson. But, the breakdown in communication was a two-way street.

Thibodeau had issues communicating with his superiors, so much so that “he typically spends all day behind his closed office door.” The list of reasons to fire Thibodeau was both lengthy and convincing. It was time for a change at the head coaching spot, despite the success that he enjoyed during his time in Chicago. His relentless, Game 7 mentality coaching philosophy was unsustainable.

The problem isn’t that Thibodeau got fired.

The problem resides in the front office’s unwillingness to take accountability for their own actions that contributed to the toxic environment within the Bulls organization.

Reinsdorf cited a lack of communication as the primary reason for firing Thibodeau. However, in his statement the communication problems were pinned squarely on the head coach, when the reality is that the front office did a poor job of communicating vital information as well.

Without seriously considering Thibodeau’s opinion, Bulls general manager Gar Forman took it upon himself to fire one of the Bulls top assistants, Ron Adams. The next season, Forman traded away Luol Deng against the wishes of Thibodeau, and again, undermining the coach’s judgement and displaying an obvious infraction of the communication standards that are supposedly held in such high regard.

The Bulls front office has obvious accountability issues; berating Thibodeau for something they themselves struggle with as well.  No matter who the coach may be, the organization can’t move in the right direction with this double-standard in place.


If the communication expectations double standard wasn’t bad enough, the key individuals of the Bulls front office have also shown an immature tendency towards jealously and spite. In his press conference following the Thibodeau firing, Forman blatantly discredited Thibodeau by stating that the Chicago Bulls only had “some success” during his tenure at the helm in Chicago.

Jul 18, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau (left) and general manager Gar Forman (right) sit with newly signed center Pau Gasol during a press conference at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently, a 255-139 record across five seasons (keep in mind that Derrick Rose missed 210 of these games), is only okay. The fact that Deng, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah developed into NBA All-Stars under the watchful eye of Thibodeau means nothing. Rose winning the league’s MVP award in 2011 obviously has nothing to do with Thibodeau, at least according to Forman and Paxson.

Then, a report the next day by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports provided context to explain the origin of the head-scratching comments made by Forman the previous day.

"Over and over, those listening to John Paxson and Gar Forman would tell you that Bulls management could never make peace with the praise heaped upon Thibodeau for 60-victory seasons and deep playoff runs. For them, it was too much about the best defense in the NBA, too much about his development of journeymen into rotation contributors, good players into All-Stars, great players into an MVP."

This report sounds like something straight out of a chick-flick. You know, the one where the main character gets jealous that the other girl has a prettier dress than she does.

So what happens if Hoiberg enjoys a similar level of success as Thibodeau, and fans and the media credit the head coach, rather than management for the success of the team? Will the front office spitefully undermine him at the expense of the well-being of the franchise?

If the pattern holds true and the answer to this question is yes, it proves once and for all that the tandem of Forman and Paxson are as much to blame for the underachievement of this franchise as anybody else.

Willingness to Settle In Order to Land A Coach That Doesn’t Fight Back

What more is the Hoiberg hiring than a devious ploy by the Bulls front office to employ a coach that they can easily manipulate? Forman and Paxson had their fragile egos irreparably damaged working with Thibodeau; a man that was given credit for the Bulls successes at the expense of the front office.

In an attempt to make sure this never happens again, Forman ultimately chose Hoiberg as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls.

Jun 2, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls General Manager Gar Forman (left) introduces new head coach Fred Hoiberg during a press conference at Advocate Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The relationship between Forman and Hoiberg goes way back. When Hoiberg played at Iowa State, Forman happened to be an assistant coach there. According to the Chicago Tribune, the two men maintained a good relationship long after Hoiberg left ISU, with Forman even buying Hoiberg a house in the Chicago suburbs.

But how much did the friendly relationship between the two men play a factor in Hoiberg ultimately winning the Bulls head coaching job in Chicago? Were other candidates placed on the back burner or not properly considered because the Bulls front office wanted somebody with an already established relationship?

In the introductory press conference on Tuesday, Forman talked a lot about how important the established trust between himself and Hoiberg contributed to him being an ideal candidate for the head coaching position.

"You’ve got to have a high, high level of communication to build trust. And when that breaks down, the trust breaks down and thus there are problems. I’m extremely confident we’re going to have a high level of communication with Fred and us. The trust will continue to develop between ownership, the front office and Fred."

Hoiberg echoed these sentiments and built upon Forman’s answer:

"I’m very confident in my relationship with these guys. Like Gar said, I’ve known him for a long time. John was doing radio when I was playing here the first time, so I really got to know him at that time as well. I’m very comfortable with my relationship, and I’m excited about this moving forward. You have to have synergy with the coaching staff and the front office or it’s going to tough to make it work. I think players can see through that sometimes."

There is a fine line between a healthy relationship and a manipulative front office taking advantage of a yes-man coach. Hoiberg has to stand his ground and not become a yes-man because the judgement of the Bulls front office is often times flawed and not in the best interests of the franchise. Management chose Hoiberg because they knew he wouldn’t fight back and question their judgement. Other media members agree that the Hoiberg hire is questionable at best.

Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune questioned whether the Bulls had hired a new head coach or a puppet in his column on Tuesday.

"The only thing that matters is a year from now when we see whether this move brought the Bulls to the NBA Finals. What matters for now, I guess, is that all the Bulls are pulling on the same end of the necktie."

ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith used the word, “shaky”, to describe the Hoiberg hire in Chicago.

As stated earlier, the continually deteriorating inter-organizational conditions over the last five seasons prevented Thibodeau from remaining the Bulls head coach. It was just too toxic of an environment for both parties to coexist.

Thibodeau is largely responsible for his own firing, as his stubborn personality and unwillingness to adapt on the fly proved costly in the playoffs for five straight seasons.

However, to not hold the Bulls front office accountable for the events that transpired over the last five seasons is laughably stupid. The tandem of Forman and Paxson have proven to be ego-driven, spiteful maniacs, who value personal agendas over the well-being of their team.

With Thibodeau gone, it only seems fair that Forman and Paxson should leave as well.

After all, both parties were equally responsible for the toxic environment that was created in Chicago.

Next: Fred Hoiberg officially introduced as Bulls head coach

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