255 wins, 139 losses. An MVP. A Defensive Player of the Year. All-NBA first-teamers. Multiple first-time All-Stars (Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler). What did all of those accomplishments yield Tom Thibodeau? A one-way ticket out of town.
Oh, and not to mention, an unprofessional press release constructed by Chicago’s front office to try and bash his credibility.
In the release, Jerry Reinsdorf, John Paxson, and Gar Forman basically blamed Thibodeau for deviating from the Bulls’ “culture,” a winning one that he undoubtedly helped create after a long period of mediocrity. Sure, the move to axe Thibs was necessary after internal dysfunction with his bosses and yet another early playoff exit but you have to wonder…can any coach survive in that environment?
“Organizations win championships, not coaches and players,” according to owner Jerry Reinsdorf. With that mentality, it’s no wonder everyone from Phil Jackson to Vinny del Negro to, now, Thibodeau all had disagreements with management at some point during their tenure. Will Fred Hoiberg, current Iowa State head coach, former Bulls guard and Thibodeau replacement, be the outlier?
That remains to be seen. Hoiberg is the polar opposite of Thibs: he’s a “players” coach, is a very creative strategist, and puts a premium on developing the right locker room dynamic to succeed. A fresh voice might be the kickstarter Derrick Rose and co. need to get over the hump. In the East, it’s not a stretch for Chicago to reach the NBA Finals next season with a first-year head coach, similar to David Blatt’s Cavs & Steve Kerr’s Warriors.
If the Bulls can retain Jimmy Butler, add another playmaker and stay healthy, they will be right back near the top of the conference come next postseason. Hoiberg is equipped to handle a low-maintenance, veteran group like the Bulls.
But instead of wearing them down by April/May, he needs to make sure they are amped up to compete at a high level when it matters most. That’s where Thibs failed…Chicago always struggled to find that next gear because they always had to overcompensate to either fight through a lack of overall talent or injury.
No matter what the FO says, the culture is not the problem. The Thibs era is over, time to move on and accept it. The Bulls are a proud group with winners across the roster. To take the next step, however, a leader needs to emerge to channel their talent and energy in the right direction.
With the title window rapidly closing, there is no more room for excuses. The toughest tasks in all of sports awaits Hoiberg as soon as he signs on the dotted line…changing the organizational mindset and teaching his team how to fall in love with the process of becoming great.