The game of chicken is starting to get ugly.
According to a Bulls player, last week’s exit interviews between the players and the front office was “open season on Thibs,’’ as the suits had no problem making their displeasure with coach Tom Thibodeau known by the line of questions and discussions they had with on-the-court personnel with the season over.
“I’d be shocked if Thibs is back,’’ the player said.
The dirty pool hasn’t stopped there, either.
According to a league source, Thibodeau is under the belief that the Bulls will do all they can to make sure he’s not coaching in the NBA next season by letting the current job vacancies continue being filled up, and then dismissing him with two years left on his contract.
When the season was coming to an end, there was the belief that the Bulls would look to trade Thibodeau for a draft pick, hoping to add an asset for the inevitable. However, the league source said they were asking for outrageous demands for the rights to the coach, knowing that there would either be no takers or one that would simply overpay.
The three vacancies going into this week were Orlando, Denver and New Orleans, but according to the source, Thibodeau knew since the weekend that Scott Skiles would be named the Magic coach and wasn’t really hearing anything about any interest from the Nuggets through back channels.
With the Pelicans not having a first-round pick in this year’s draft as an immediate asset, as well as New Orleans seemingly not waiting on a decision from the Bulls on Thibodeau, the clock is not in Thibodeau’s favor on that front, either.
While it would seem that $9 million over the next two years to sit around and do nothing would be an ideal situation for most, Thibodeau isn’t most. Coaching is what he does, his passion. He is willing to sit a season if need be and see what the market brings, but it’s not ideal for him.
That’s why his approach this offseason has been business as usual.
According to sources, his offseason routine of film study and grading out players is well under way. In his mind, he’s coaching the Bulls until told otherwise.
But here’s where things could get interesting, and might even blow up in the face of VP of basketball operations John Paxson.
While there are currently three coaching vacancies, that doesn’t mean a head job won’t open up once Thibodeau is let go.
With the feeling in Cleveland that the Cavaliers are winning in spite of coach David Blatt, what LeBron James wants, LeBron James gets. If the four-time MVP wants a coaching change after the playoff run ends, Thibodeau would be an ideal option.
Basically, Paxson’s worst nightmare.
The other scenario is what part owner Jerry Reinsdorf plays in this. While Reinsdorf has always allowed front offices to have staying power over coaches and managers, he has intervened before.
During the 2011 White Sox season, then-general manager Ken Williams tried to fire Greg Walker after the hitting coach had to be restrained from going after him in the clubhouse, and then later in the season tried to also fire former manager Ozzie Guillen.
Both times Reinsdorf shoved Williams’ decision to the side before it was made public and vetoed it.
Reinsdorf could always call a sit-down with Paxson and Thibodeau and tell them to somehow find a way to work it out.
Until then, however, the staring contest continues.