Even Bulls title unlikely to fix friction between Tom Thibodeau, front office

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Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is probably on his way out. | Tony Dejak/AP

Call it noise or discord or the music of the human mill.

That the Bulls’ front office — OK, John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman — have major issues with coach Tom Thibodeau is well known.

Funny thing here? Paxson hired Thibs. Gar has profited from Thibs’ single-minded lunacy. The Bulls are good.

Moreover, the front office knew what it was getting with the now-57-year-old hoops lifer: tunnel vision, obsession, defensive focus, win-or-die mania, humorless grinding.

Thibodeau already had been a college assistant coach at Salem State and Harvard, and then an NBA assistant with the Timberwolves, Spurs, 76ers, Knicks, Rockets and Celtics. Mileage was his calling card.

He’d never been a head coach until Paxson vetted and hired him. And if Pax didn’t know Thibs was maybe not your normal, social, player-friendly coach, then bad on him.

No matter what, this conflict likely will mean Thibodeau will be gone after this season. Weird, isn’t it?

Especially when you consider that even after this stinker of a loss Wednesday night to the Cavaliers, 106-91, the Bulls have split in Cleveland and stolen home-court advantage.

Get past the Cavs, and the Bulls could win the NBA title. And still Thibs might be launched. Because the front office is sick of his maniacal desire to burn everything to the core to win.

That’s why the feud is so odd — why it hints at the unsolvable flaws in human nature.

Basically, you get sick of somebody you’ve been around too much. Especially when situations change. All you see are the negatives.

You can blame a lot of this on the uncertainty created by the Derrick Rose knee injuries. Rose was the MVP of the league in 2011, and Thibodeau was NBA Coach of the Year. The two were linked like a bee and its honey.

But when Rose’s knee surgeries blew the hive to bits, a kind of frustrated, irritable, scapegoat-seeking atmosphere descended on the Bulls. It was unfortunate but understandable. The amazing Chicago-born point guard was tough as steel, fragile as glass. To push him, as Thibs did, was to risk long-term loss for short-term gain.

Paxson, no light-hearted fellow himself, kept getting more unwired with the Rose chaos. Through it all, Thibs was like a badger on speed, digging a hole. Pax and Gar were like crows watching from a tree, angry, dumbfounded, disgusted.

In marriage, it’s called the ‘‘seven-year itch.’’ In Hollywood, it’s called ‘‘uncoupling.’’ In music, it’s called ‘‘creative differences.’’ In crime, it’s called ‘‘Sorry, pal, this hole’s for you.’’

What Paxson and Forman are wondering is, how much better would we be with a different coach? Say, a rookie like Fred Hoiberg?

Nobody knows. But the irritation never stops.

So we’ve got this silly issue right in the middle of battle.

The Bulls won 50 games this season, are now in the second round of the playoffs and have been quite successful during Thibodeau’s five years in Chicago. A record of 255-140. Two first-place and three second-place finishes in the Central Division. Always a playoff team.

But strange things happen in life and sports.

Example: Frail Bulls three-point shooter Mike Dunleavy posterized all-world superstar LeBron James on a two-handed dunk in the second quarter Wednesday. Odds of that happening? Nil.

But it happened.

We won’t worry about this Bulls rift until something caves. For now, it’s background noise. Nothing more.

For now.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

Twitter: @ricktelander

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