With Fred Hoiberg all but signed, what now becomes of Tom Thibodeau?
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What the last four days should show the Bulls’ front office is that it didn’t win the news conference Thursday.
As a matter of fact, the front office has taken several shots nationally for firing coach Tom Thibodeau with two years and $9 million left on his contract and engaging in what one coach called a ‘‘charade’’ by pretending it didn’t already have a replacement in Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.
According to multiple sources, the Bulls and Hoiberg are set to finalize a five-year deal thought to be worth about $25 million before the NBA Finals start Thursday. Hoiberg is expected to be in town Monday.
‘‘I’m not impressed,’’ ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said in an interview on the network Sunday. ‘‘When you consider the history of the Chicago Bulls, meaning Jerry Reinsdorf’s ownership and what has transpired in terms of his executives running the show and the cantankerous relationship they historically have with head coaches, it definitely is a bit alarming. This is a history associated with the Chicago Bulls that is simply inescapable.’’
New York Daily News NBA writer Frank Isola took it a step further. He wrote that the Bulls not only have the parameters of a contract with Hoiberg in place, but that the deal was in place while Thibodeau still was coaching the team.
That’s not surprising, considering a source told the Sun-Times weeks ago that the front office was bad-mouthing Thibodeau to his players back in training camp, trying to plant the seed that he didn’t have their best interests at heart. That was confirmed by a Bulls player.
Meanwhile, now that the Orlando Magic’s and New Orleans Pelicans’ coaching vacancies have been filled, only the Denver Nuggets’ opening remains. But a source said Thibodeau has little interest in that job.
That doesn’t mean Thibodeau won’t be coaching next season, though. As long as Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt has the ability to signal for a timeout he no longer has — something he did in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bulls — he has zero job security, regardless of what happens in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
And while Minnesota Timberwolves general manager/coach Flip Saunders has said he wants to coach for one more season, owner Glen Taylor has remained noncommittal to the idea.
A person close to Thibodeau recently indicated the Timberwolves are a team Thibodeau always has had special feelings for because he began his NBA coaching career as an assistant with them from 1989 to 1991.
If Thibodeau is willing to sit out a year, some interesting possibilities might be open to him. First, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson can opt out of his deal after next season. That might open the door for Thibodeau to return to New York, where he was an assistant for seven seasons and might be granted GM responsibilities.
Thibodeau had little say about personnel matters with the Bulls, and that seemed to lead to some bad feelings between him and the front office.
Then there’s the Los Angeles Lakers’ job, which belongs to Byron Scott — for now, at least.
As for the Bulls, they just want to get their new coach in place and continue trying to do damage control. But one is proving to be much harder to accomplish than the other.