http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/story/2015-05-27/tom-thibodeau-coach-firing-possibility-bulls-chicago-forman-paxson-reinsdorfThere are, still, three NBA head-coaching jobs open. Sort of.
Around the league, the process of finding new coaches in New Orleans, Denver and Orlando — where there are openings — has been held up by the one impending opening. That would be in Chicago, where some players and people around the Bulls already have heard that coach Tom Thibodeau won’t be back next year, two people close to the situation told Sporting News.
“There has been a little more slowness to the process,” one person told Sporting News, requesting anonymity in the sensitive situation. “You have one big name out there who is not really out there yet, and so there has not been the big flood of interviews you would expect to see. It’s been a holding pattern.”
But the Bulls have made no final decision on Thibodeau’s future. He has a contract in place for two years, and he stated after the Bulls were eliminated from the postseason that he had every intention of fulfilling that contract.
The Bulls have been in a bind because of the Thibodeau situation. Team owner Jerry Reinsdorf has a long-standing aversion to paying coaches who are not currently working for him, but for the Bulls to be rid of Thibodeau, they would have to either fire him or move him to another team — a trade, of sorts, like the one that sent Doc Rivers from the Celtics to the Clippers in 2013 for a draft pick.
Chicago approached the offseason as if it were sitting in a position of strength, much as Boston was when it was dealing with L.A. The Bulls figured that, with an asset such as Thibodeau on their hands, they could command a first-round pick as compensation. But there is a key difference between the Thibodeau and Rivers situations: Rivers went to the Celtics and told them he wanted out, where the Bulls are the ones who want Thibodeau out.
The Bulls' front office undermined Thibodeau throughout the year — and apparently did a very good job of it because, when it came time to make a move, teams like Orlando and New Orleans were reluctant to pull the trigger on any deal for Thibodeau that would involve compensation. Who could blame them? Why would a team give up a draft pick for a coach whose current franchise has such disdain for him?
Other teams have moved on or, at least, have given the appearance of moving on. There are still those around the league who feel that New Orleans and Orlando want Thibodeau and have come up with candidates like Scott Skiles for the Magic and Jeff Van Gundy (Thibodeau’s friend and mentor) for the Pelicans in order to spook the Bulls into simply letting Thibodeau go.
If their new candidates are decoys, that’s a high-stakes game of chicken for the Pels and/or Magic. Either way, whether by straight firing or some form of trade, Bulls players are expecting to call a new guy “coach” next season.