Tom Thibodeau Rumors
The Pelicans historically haven’t paid well for coaches, and Gentry’s deal reflects that. So maybe there was back-channel communication before the Gentry hiring that made Thibodeau less interested in that opening. I know some of his confidantes were encouraging him to take a year off, collect his Bulls salary and see what openings are available in 2016. He’ll be hired somewhere at some point obviously. The fact the Lakers and Thibodeau have been linked for two straight summers is intriguing.
Thibodeau said Friday that he wasn’t worried about comments from the Bulls’ front office in the immediate aftermath after the decision was made. “I don’t worry about stuff like that,” Thibodeau said. “I know for me, I put everything I have into each and every day. So I have no regrets. I’m going to let the record speak for itself.”
“Obviously, there were some issues, and I don’t want to get into all that,” Thibodeau said. “I’m very proud of what the team did. … I think any time when you have a pro franchise, there’s going to be some carping that goes on along the way.”
KC Johnson: Thibodeau, on @MikeAndMike, said, “I’m going to let the record speak for itself.” Spoke very positively about Bulls’ run.
KC Johnson: Thibodeau, on @MikeAndMike, said he has “no regrets” and calls his Bulls’ stint “a great run.” Won’t get into issues with FO.
Well, not all coaches. At a presentation on wearable technology organized by coaching agent Warren Legarie last year in Chicago, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau raised his hand. Everyone in the audience knew where this was going. Thibodeau, fired last week by the Bulls and replaced by Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, had resisted overtures from Bulls management to employ wearable technology to monitor players’ recovery, league sources said. “He was basically challenging it, like, ‘Michael Jordan didn’t need that,’” Kopp said. “Fair point, but one of the most amazing athletes in the entire world, I would argue, would’ve benefited, too. There’s a reason why they call it old school, because it’s been replaced by new thinking.”
“The interesting dynamic is that the teams that limit the amount of contact that a head coach has with the ownership group inherently has communication issues,” Van Gundy said Sunday in a phone interview. “I think some management tries to consolidate the power, don’t allow coaches to have regular contact. There are some that encourage it. I think those people, those teams, have the best chance. Then you get the owner hearing two different perspectives: the general manager’s and the coach. When you only get one, most times it leads to blaming the coach when things go wrong.”
Pau Gasol, who enjoyed an All-Star season in the first of a three-year deal with the Bulls, used his blog on his web site to thank Tom Thibodeau. “Coach Thibodeau, (I) want to thank your trust and support this season,” Gasol wrote. “I am sure that his departure was a very difficult decision for the organization of the Bulls, but I am convinced that they have a solid plan for the success of the franchise. We all have high expectations for the coming season and will do anything to bring the ring to Chicago. Go Bulls!”
Former Chicago Bulls and Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro was also interviewed, as was former Toronto Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell and Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. Despite the widely-held assumption that the Pelicans would consider recently-fired Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, there was no communication between those two parties.
Several confidants of Thibodeau have encouraged him to take next season off, collect his Bulls salary and survey potential jobs for the 2016-17 season. According to three people who spoke to Thibodeau, Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s stinging statement on his firing hurt but otherwise he sounded buoyed and optimistic about his future. One Thibodeau confidant even said he talked appreciatively about his five-year run in Chicago, a city in which he loved to coach with a roster he also admired.
Gentry is the first known candidate to be extended a second interview by the Pelicans. But sources confirm that Jeff Van Gundy is still in the mix, along with Tom Thibodeau and Vinny Del Negro.
Remember former Jerry Krause’s notorious comment that “organizations win championships?” And the bad blood between Krause and coach Phil Jackson, and Krause and stars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen? This was that, the same mood, just different principals. One NBA coach referred to Friday’s events in Chicago as “a crucifixion.” Another spoke of “the knife Reinsdorf stabbed in Thibodeau’s back” on the way out.
Sam: I do have to defend the Bulls on this one as it has become sort of a smear campaign, that big lie thing that if you say a lie often enough people will believe it. The parting with Vinnie went badly and John Paxson did regret the events and apologized. As a result, he hasn’t had much interaction with Thibodeau. But the Bulls often have been more generous to their coaches than I would have been. Doug Collins and Jackson still remain close with Bulls management, Paxson and Collins still emailing almost weekly. Collins received championship jewelry from the team to thank him for his contributions even though he was fired two years before the first title. And despite Jerry Krause’s open courtship of Tim Floyd, Reinsdorf offered Jackson a multiyear deal at the league’s highest salary to begin a post-Jordan rebuilding. Jackson declined as he didn’t want to be involved in rebuilding. Tim Floyd quit and Reinsdorf paid him the full two years left on his contract. Scott Skiles told management he couldn’t coach the players anymore. They let him go, but they cancelled the offset in his contract so he could go to the Bucks and double dip with two salaries instead of the Bulls getting his Bucks salary. And though there was bitterness at Thibodeau’s discharge, no one in 20 years had hired Thibodeau to be head coach until the Bulls did. And then they gave him a generous contract extension and he’ll make $9 million the next two years. It doesn’t exactly suggest a pattern of coaching abuse.
Thibodeau enlisted a Bulls staffer and he went out and purchased several dozen baseballs a few days before the game. Then after a typical off season day of preparing for the NBA draft and already combing game film for next season, they adjourned to a nearby baseball field. Thibodeau went to the mound about 50 feet away with the bucket of baseballs and started throwing one after another until sweat was pouring off him on the hot, humid afternoon. For perhaps an hour, Thibs practiced his throw. Almost all of them were perfect as Thibs still is a pretty good athlete and despite a late night appetite still was in good shape before knee surgery to come. But another and another. Like his practices and walk throughs in his philosophy of life and basketball, it’s in the preparation and the building of habits.
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.
So Thibodeau, now a local celebrity who was soon dining with the mayor and receiving congratulations from the president, was invited to throw out the first pitch before a White Sox/Cubs game. Great honor; easy work. Not for Thibs. There is no such thing.
And Thibodeau’s Bulls teams have, on balance, gone further in the playoffs than they were projected to. During his tenure as Chicago’s coach, the Bulls have accumulated 625 dynasty points — 13.1 points more than would have been expected from the talent levels of his teams. (In 2015 alone, he racked up 40 more dynasty points than expected.)
Peter Vecsey: Tom Thibodeau has no interest, I’m told, in coaching Pelicans (feels Davis will leave when pact permits), Magic (Skiles on tap) or Nuggets.
Thibs’s tally ranks eighth among all NBA coaches since the 1979-80 season, and he did it in far fewer games than his peers atop the list. Thibodeau added about 7.5 wins per 82 games (the standard length of an NBA season), the most of any coach with at least 300 games coached. Few coaches have squeezed more wins out of their talent than Thibodeau has in his short career.
We can attempt to measure a coach’s influence by looking at how much his team wins relative to expectations set by preseason projections. And by that (imperfect) standard, Thibodeau during his time in Chicago has guided the team to about 36 more wins than would have been expected purely from its talent going into each season.
A recent conversation with an NBA veteran familiar with Tom Thibodeau’s ways ended with a revelation. The player spoke of his head coach’s open-door policy (literal, not figurative) and how empowered he felt to inform his coach when he needed a rest, either in a game or practice. When I asked if the Bulls players had that same freedom, that ability to give Thibodeau input on their level of freshness or exhaustion, the player looked down at my recording device until I hit stop. “Never,” he replied.
Thibodeau never was a great one for compromise, perhaps because his life hasn’t included much. No wife, no kids, nothing but basketball. It became legendary around Thibodeau, the late nights and early mornings in the office, bolting out when a player arrived to run him through some drill, players even laughing how they’d tip toe in sometimes so Thibs wouldn’t catch them and put them through some midnight exercise. It was all fun and smiles when they were winning 62 games.