‘Disappointed’ Bulls fire Thibodeau
Tom Thibodeau was fired by the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, ending a mostly successful run as head coach with 255 wins in five seasons.
Thibodeau has $9 million remaining on his contract, and such moves are not in the history of Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
“We were all really disappointed in the way the season ended,” Bulls executive vice president John Paxson said, noting with injuries to the Cavaliers, the opportunity to make the NBA Finals was real. “You have to have a situation where you are all pulling in the same direction. Our goal now is to move forward. We probably wouldn’t be sitting here if we won a championship.”
Thibodeau, who had never been a head coach before Reinsdorf hired him, had a .647 winning percentage in the regular season. That is second only to Phil Jackson in franchise history.
“I appreciate the opportunity that Jerry Reinsdorf gave me,” Thibodeau said in a statement. “We are proud of our accomplishments, fought through adversity, tried to give our fans the full commitment to excellence they deserve. I love this game and am excited about what’s ahead for me with USA Basketball and the next coaching opportunity in the NBA.”
Friction between Thibodeau, Paxson — who said Thursday ‘relationships are difficult’ — and general manager Gar Forman spiked in the past two years and sparked the separation.
“We feel like we’re headed in the right direction,” Forman said at Thursday’s press conference. “Quite simply, we’re looking for the right fit. Somebody who’s a leader, who has great communication skills … we’ll begin that process here tonight and into the weekend. We think it’s a very attractive job.”
Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg is thought to be a leading candidate for the job. Forman said there is not timetable for the team to name a new coach.
“… 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,” Reinsdorf said. “Teams that consistently perform at the highest levels are able to come together and be unified across the organization-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. Days like today are difficult, but necessary for us to achieve our goals and fulfill our commitments to our fans.”
Speculation of a possible trade of Thibodeau to the New Orleans Pelicans and Orlando Magic reportedly fizzled when both suitors said they would be unwilling to part with first-round draft compensation Chicago was seeking in a coach swap.
“We had our player meetings and our organizational meetings and we dug deep,” Forman said. “Where this team is at and how to sustain success. … I don’t want to get into specifics. But as we came out of those meetings it was our decision a change was needed to continue to move forward.”
The Bulls’ power structure became dysfunctional over the past two seasons over debates about player usage and minutes restrictions, practice structure and control of the coaching staff. With Joakim Noah hurting and Rose coming back from injury before the season, the team’s medical staff advised a minutes limit.
“We came up with the belief and the idea that we needed to get them into the season the right way physically,” Paxson said. “The minutes restriction was something again, that was an organizational decision. … It was to give our players the best chance to succeed this year. We did the right thing for our guys. Tom was part of all the discussions prior to the season.”