Bulls lead assistant coach Adrian Griffin is a contender to succeed Tom Thibodeau as Bulls head coach should Chicago and Thibs part ways now that the team’s season is over, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter links). Stein makes it clear that Griffin would be a fallback option in case the team comes up short in its likely pursuit of Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. However, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders recently heard from sources who questioned whether Hoiberg wants to make the jump to the NBA, given the condition of his heart, as the 42-year-old underwent open heart surgery last month to replace his aortic valve. Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry would also be among the front-runners if the Bulls job comes open, Kyler also reported.
Griffin and Thibodeau both came to the Bulls in the offseason of 2010, and Chicago promoted Griffin, who had simply been one of the team’s assistant coaches at the start, to lead assistant in 2013. The 40-year-old Griffin spent two years as a Bucks assistant between the end of his 10-year NBA playing career and the beginning of his time on Chicago’s bench. He’s been a prime head coaching candidate around the league the past few years, reportedly interviewing with the Blazers in 2012, the Pistons and twice with the Sixers in 2013, and the Jazz twice as well as the Cavs last year. USA Today’s Sam Amick identified Griffin among a few coaches believed to be likely candidates for the Nuggets job in the immediate wake of the team’s firing of Brian Shaw in March, though there’s been little to advance that notion since.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports used the term “inevitable” last week to describe a parting of ways between Thibodeau and the Bulls, and confidants of the coach had become convinced as of last month that the Bulls would fire him, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reported then. However, the Bulls could reap compensation from Thibodeau’s suitors if they hang on to him and allow him to speak with other teams instead of simply firing him, and Kyler believes the compensation route is a more likely path for Chicago. Thibodeau’s contract runs through 2016/17.
For what it’s worth, Thibodeau told reporters this evening that he isn’t anticipating a departure. “Yeah, until they tell me I’m not [the Bulls coach], I expect be here, so that’s the way I’m approaching it,” Thibodeau said, as Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv relays (on Twitter).