After the Chicago Bulls lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the consensus among both beat writers and national reporters is that head coach Tom Thibodeau has coached his last game in the United Center. Thibs’ relationship with management has been tumultuous over the last few years, with disagreements over personnel decisions, playing time, and offensive style. He hasn’t been fired yet, but it just might be time to jump the gun and see who his most likely replacements are.
The Mayor has a special place in the hearts of Bulls fans, as his threes were one of the few bright spots for a couple of years in the early 2000s. He’s turned the program at Iowa State around, making them a perennial contender. In the past five seasons, the team has notched an impressive 115-56 record.
Hoiberg also worked in the front office for the Timberwolves, so maybe the Bulls front office will think that he can relate to some of their struggles. Hoiberg’s buyout if he goes to an NBA team is only $500,000 (as opposed to $2 million to another college team) so it isn’t a huge deal that he’s already under contract. Multiple sources are reporting that he’s the first choice, so if Freddy wants the job, it looks like the job is his.
Another former Bulls player and current assistant coach, Adrian Griffin has been mentioned as the likely second choice if Hoiberg is unwilling to leave Ames. Griffin played for the Bulls in the 04-05 season, then again from 06-08. Griffin seems like a logical option if the front office wants to ensure they’re going to have someone who is willing to work with them. He’s a known quantity, and has proven himself to be a capable assistant, despite the limited responsibilities given to him during the Thibs’ era.
Much like Gregg Popovich’s pupils have been in high demand for head coaching jobs, it looks like Steve Kerr’s assistants will find the same fortune. Gentry isn’t really a pupil of Kerr, having served as a head coach for 12 seasons. He saw mixed success over those 12 years, but there’s no denying what he’s helped form in Golden State this year. Plus, he worked alongside and under Pop and R.C. Buford, which makes him a more attractive candidate than ever in this era of Spurs worship.
On the other hand, if the Bulls don’t care about getting someone that is great at dealing with front offices, they could always go with Mark Jackson. He proved his worth as a coach, playing a major part in turning the Golden State Warriors around and in the season they’re having right now. Still, his disagreements with the front office were the main reason he was fired, so that may be too big of a risk when the Bulls are letting Thibs go for the same reasons. There’s no denying that he can coach a team, especially on defense though.
Malone didn’t have wild success in Sacramento, but he also didn’t really have a roster with any talent. The team was playing quite well before DeMarcus Cousins got sick, which made Malone’s firing all the more surprising. Malone is going to get a new job soon, and while it isn’t terribly probably that job will be in Chicago, it might be one of the smarter moves the Bulls could make.
Of course, there’s still the two years and $9 million on Thibodeau’s contract for the team to worry about. A trade is very possible, as there’s no reason why he shouldn’t still be considered one of the premier coaches in the NBA.