But all apparently is not well in Chicago, especially where Coach Tom Thibodeau is concerned. Sources are telling K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune that they believe “Thibodeau’s relationship with management is beyond repair, and that a coaching change after the season “wouldn’t surprise many league personnel familiar with the deteriorating dynamic,” even though Thibodeau has two years remaining on his contract.
Seemingly at the center of all this is Thibodeau’s intense style, which has led some to wonder whether he’s lost the team and the faith of the team’s front office, which reportedly has been at odds with Thibodeau since at least November 2013, when reports surfaced that the team’s executives were telling him how to dispense minutes to the team’s star players.
Chicago’s top players have traditionally logged major minutes since Thibodeau became the team’s coach in 2010, but with the team battling injuries all season — Bulls starters Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah have all been healthy in just 15 of 47 games this season — and with former MVP Rose coming off two lost seasons because of injuries, Thibideau’s stance on this has been questioned.
The coach, for one, is unapologetic about his style.
“You have to believe – to me, the only way a team can improve is you have to be sharp. The way you execute in this league is through repetition, and that’s both offensively and defensively. You’re not going to rest your way to success,” Thibodeau told Sam Amick of USA Today.
Last week, the team held a meeting to clear the air and has won three games since. But “the meeting occurred when Thibodeau first scheduled an unplanned practice after the desultory Jan. 19 road loss to the Cavaliers and later canceled it,” Johnson reported.
ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, for whom Thibodeau was an assistant when Van Gundy was head coach of the Knicks and Rockets, blasted Chicago’s front office (and the journalists that cover the Bulls) during Friday’s Bulls-Mavericks game.
“I think right now, it’s almost criminal … what he’s having to endure with some of the fringe media – attacking his job status, attacking his personality,” Van Gundy said, per the Daily Herald. “Listen, I read every Chicago story and there is no doubt that the Bulls organization has the media, with a few exceptions, in their hip pocket. And for whatever reason, they have taken their sights on Thibodeau when all he’s done is deliver greatness here in his five years.”
Bulls GM John Paxson called Van Gundy’s accusations “pathetic.” Nevertheless, the fact that anyone is even talking about such matters suggests things are not right in Chicago.