The Bulls have fired coach Tom Thibodeau, the team announced via press release. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported overnight that resolution to the long-running drama between Thibodeau and Bulls management was expected no later than Friday.
“When Tom was hired in 2010, he was right for our team and system at that time, and over the last five years we have had some success with Tom as our head coach,” Bulls GM Gar Forman said in the team’s statement. “But as we looked ahead and evaluated how we as a team and an organization could continue to grow and improve, we believed a change in approach was needed.”
Owner Jerry Reinsdorf also made a lengthy comment in the statement that spoke to a breakdown in cohesion among the coach and management, essentially confirming a well-documented storyline that’s persisted for more than a year. The Bulls let Thibodeau know his fate at a meeting today, but the coach knew the news was coming, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter links). The Bulls are still on the hook for the nearly $9MM they owe Thibodeau for the rest of his contract, which covered the next two seasons, but that would be offset if he takes a coaching job elsewhere within two years.
The Magic and the Pelicans are known to have interest in talking to Thibodeau, Marc Stein of ESPN.com wrote Wednesday, but as of last week, no team had contacted the Bulls to ask permission to hire Thibs, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. Thibodeau wasn’t willing to meet with teams or talk to them about their vacancies while he remained under contract with the Bulls, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders heard. The Nuggets are not an option for Thibodeau, sources told Berger. The Bulls reportedly wanted to hold off on firing Thibodeau and seek compensation in return for allowing another team to hire Thibs, but teams didn’t appear willing to give it up for a coach whom Chicago was well-known not to want back.
Multiple reports have cast Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg as Chicago’s top choice to succeed Thibodeau, but the Bulls are interested in Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry, too, Kyler reported, and one source who spoke with Howard Beck of Bleacher Report considers Gentry the favorite for the job. Bulls lead assistant coach Adrian Griffin is also in the mix as a potential Thibodeau replacement, as Stein reported. Hoiberg had open heart surgery last month to replace his aortic valve, and Kyler and Beck have heard doubts that he’ll jump to the Bulls this year. The Nuggets and Magic appeared to have interest in Gentry at various points this spring, and the Pelicans interviewed him.
Thibodeau had plenty of on-court success in his five seasons with the Bulls, who gave the longtime assistant his first NBA head coaching job. He went 255-139 in the regular season, winning the 2010 Coach of the Year award, though he was just 23-28 in the playoffs, and Stein heard that the Bulls were displeased with his team’s inability to get past a banged-up Cavs team in the second round this year.