After five tumultuous but largely successful seasons, the end appears near for Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Bulls were bounced from the playoffs after losing in six game to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday. Thibodeau's history of conflict with the Bulls' front office is well-documented, and Chicago's Game 6 loss was likely his last on the team's bench, despite his purported expectations to the contrary and the wishes of point guard Derrick Rose.
From ESPN's Marc Stein:
Many unknowns remains in the Thibodeau saga, naturally starting with the two years and nearly $9 million left on the coach's contract and the likelihood that both sides will be hoping the other blinks first in the unavoidable standoff forthcoming in terms of how these parties negotiate a divorce.
Yet there's little mystery surrounding what both sides want. The story is the same no matter who you check with: Thibodeau and his front-office superiors John Paxson and Gar Forman, despite their public pronouncements to the contrary, are utterly done with each other.
As one source close to the situation puts it: "Thibs is gone. They know it and he knows it."
When the Bulls and Thibodeau invariably part ways, Stein reports Chicago plans to target Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg as their next bench boss. Hoiberg, however, is said to be reluctant to assume the stresses of an NBA job, given his recent history of heart problems.
Golden State Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry has emerged as a frontrunner in the event Hoiberg turns the job down, and should the courtship of Gentry also fall through, Chicago will reportedly move on to former Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin.
Thibodeau, meanwhile, is reportedly being courted by the New Orleans Pelicans, who fired head coach Monty Williams on Tuesday. The Pelicans pursued Thibodeau in 2010 - before he took the Bulls job and the Pelicans settled on Williams - and the two sides are said to have mutual interest.
Thibodeau and the Bulls' front office clashed over a number of issues, namely Thibodeau's tendency to overwork his players - which many feel contributed the team's spate of injuries during his five-year tenure. Meanwhile, Thibodeau was reportedly upset by the Bulls' decision to fire his longtime assistant Ron Adams, who latched on as a defensive specialist with the Golden State Warriors.
Under Thibodeau, the Bulls experienced their greatest run of success since the Michael Jordan era, winning at least 45 games every season (surviving two of them without Rose), capturing four playoff series victories, finishing top-five in defensive efficiency four times and twice finishing with the NBA's best record. But his failure to get the team over the hump - whether that's an intimation of his coaching acumen - appears to have provided the Bulls all the reason they needed to move in a different direction.