9:36am: Thibodeau isn’t willing to meet with other teams or talk to them about their coaching vacancies while he remains under contract with the Bulls, sources tell Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders for his NBA AM piece.
THURSDAY, 8:37am: A resolution is expected no later than Friday, sources tell K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, and the Bulls are set to fire Thibodeau unless owner Jerry Reinsdorf intercedes. Some players, during exit meeting interviews with the team, didn’t endorse the return of Thibodeau, as Johnson also hears from sources. Thibodeau and executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson haven’t spoken since January, Johnson adds. Still, Johnson heard from three sources who refuted the report that the Bulls tried to hire Collins as an assistant to Thibodeau. Instead, Collins was the one who came up with the idea of joining the Bulls, and he approached Thibodeau about it in 2013, not 2014, according to Johnson’s sources. Bulls management didn’t find out about it until months later, Johnson hears.
4:18pm: Some Bulls players and personnel have already been informed that Thibodeau won’t be returning next season, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News relays.
WEDNESDAY, 3:30pm: The Bulls are considering firing coach Tom Thibodeau without attempting to garner compensation from another team and simply absorbing the resulting financial hit, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports. The chances that the franchise fires Thibodeau is growing increasingly likely as the days pass, Stein adds. Thibodeau’s contract with the team still has two more years and nearly $9MM left, which Chicago obviously would prefer not to fork over if Thibs was no longer calling the plays.
The relationship between the coach and the front office has grown increasingly contentious and the team was reportedly waiting for all the remaining coaching vacancies to fill up before parting ways with its coach, thus potentially freezing Thibodeau out of the NBA for the 2015/16 campaign. This is a curious tact for the team to take if it truly desires to avoid compensating Thibodeau, since the coach’s contract contains a set-off clause which could allow the Bulls to recoup as much as 100% of his salary if the franchise fires him and he ends up with another job.
According to Stein’s sources, there is more to the front office’s displeasure with Thibodeau than a difference in philosophies and opinions. Team management is reportedly frustrated with the team’s inability to defeat the injury-depleted Cavaliers in the second-round of the playoffs this season, as well as with the squad’s continued lack of flow on the offensive end of the court, the ESPN scribe adds. The team had reportedly tried to get Thibodeau to hire Doug Collins to help revamp the Bulls’ offense, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun Times notes.
The only remaining coaching vacancies are with the Magic, who are reportedly looking at Scott Skiles as the front-runner, and the Nuggets, who may simply promote interim coach Melvin Hunt to fill their vacancy. So unless another coaching position unexpectedly opens up, it is looking increasingly likely that Thibodeau will be a spectator, albeit a well-paid one, when the 2015/16 season tips off.