While most of the Bulls offseason has had them linked to Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love, one of the more surprising turns have been the several teams that Tom Thibodeau has been linked to.
It all started when reports surfaced in May that the Los Angeles Lakers would reach out to the Bulls about interviewing Thibodeau for their head coaching vacancy. Thibodeau was also linked to the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Neither Bulls management or Thibodeau issued a statement addressing or shooting down any of the reports – which isn’t a surprise considering they don’t address rumors – but the fact that there was reports of the interest showed that teams believe the dislike between Thibodeau and management is strong enough to lure the coach away from Chicago.
While I’ve always believed the goal is to win a title, if there is any rift, it would seem to be on the vision on how to best to arrive at that destination.
Improving the roster would go a long way in helping to climb back into contention and quiet any talks of friction between the two parties. Even if that happens, though, there seems to be another situation looming on the horizon that could play a part in just how long this relationship lasts.
On Monday, ESPN reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers made a pitch to Kentucky coach John Calapari that entailed a 10-year offer worth nearly $80 million and included the role of coach and team president. This came before the news that the New York Knicks came to an agreement with recently retired Thunder guard Derek Fisher to be their new head coach on a five-year deal worth $25 million.
Just last month the Golden State Warriors hired Steve Kerr to a five-year deal worth $25 million to take over head coaching duties and the Detroit Pistons hired Stan Van Gundy to a five-year deal worth $35 million to be its new coach and head of basketball operations.
Calapari has former coaching experience and is one of the best coaches in the college game. Both Fisher and Kerr will be rookie coaches, while Van Gundy has a .641 winning percentage in two plus seasons with the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic.
It’s important to note that Kerr’s friendship with Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob and Fisher’s relationship with Knicks President Phil Jackson played an important part in both their deals. While Thibodeau isn’t golfing buddies with general manager Gar Forman or VP of Basketball Operations John Paxon, with a bar being raised, the question becomes what is Thibodeau’s worth around the league and more importantly, to the Bulls.
Thibodeau currently has three years remaining on a deal that will pay him $4.3 annually until the summer of 2017. He owns a .657 winning percentage, won Coach of the Year in his rookie season, finished second in the balloting the following year, eighth the year after that and third this past season. Since helping lead the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year, the Bulls have dealt with injuries and have been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round two of the last three seasons, both times have come without Derrick Rose in uniform.
There’s no denying the impact Thibodeau’s made on the organization since becoming the head coach in 2010 and while his hard-pressing style may irk players, personnel and media alike, the results – a lot of the times while the odds are against them – have, more times than not, justified his approach. He’s helped create a no-nonsense culture and instills a mindset to compete no matter who’s in or out of the lineup along with a five-man offensive and defensive approach.
The Bulls objectives this offseason are to add depth and exhaust all avenues to try and land another big piece to put alongside Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but you can be sure that they’ve kept their eye on the deals given to Fisher, Kerr and Van Gundy.
Thibodeau will command a raise when his current deal ends, one year before Noah’s and during the same time when Rose and Gibson’s end. Creative Arts Agency, which represents the head coach, is sure to push for anything north of $5 million once it gets close to time for extension talks, as their client has proven himself as one of the league’s elite coaches.
The pressure will then be on the Bulls.