CHICAGO, Illinois -- After months of reports indicating a rift between Chicago Bulls management and Tom Thibodeau, the organization officially dismissed the head coach on Thursday.
In a press release by the team, Chicago Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf provided a detailed explanation into the decision to fire Thibodeau with two years and $9 million left on his contract.
“While the head of each department of the organization must be free to make final decisions regarding his department, there must be free and open interdepartmental discussion and consideration of everyone's ideas and opinions. These internal discussions must not be considered an invasion of turf, and must remain private,” Reinsdorf said. “Teams that consistently perform at the highest levels are able to come together and be unified across the organization-staff, players, coaches, management and ownership. When everyone is on the same page, trust develops and teams can grow and succeed together. Unfortunately, there has been a departure from this culture.”
The Bulls will now intensify their pursuit of Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg, who has been management’s No. 1 choice to ultimately replace Thibodeau for months, according to numerous media outlets.
Hoiberg has maintained a strong relationship with the Bulls organization after playing for the team from 1999-2003. Bulls General Manager Gar Forman and Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson have well-documented admiration for him.
The Chicago Tribune reported on Thursday that Hoiberg remains the leading candidate for the position and it's his job if he wants it.
Fred Hoiberg is leading candidate to replace Thibodeau, who had been telling those close to him he'd be fired by Friday. Told at AM mtng.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) May 28, 2015
Bulls can say what they want about going through process. They're locked and loaded on hiring Hoiberg. His job to lose.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) May 28, 2015
The constant speculation about Hoiberg’s possible departure to the NBA, especially in recent weeks, has been looming over the Cyclones program and their fans.
“You know everyone’s wondering if Fred is gonna take the job. We would be disappointed if he left, obviously. There is so much excitement surrounding him and his program but we would look forward to a new coach coming in,” said Cyclone fan Brent Kueahnast. “We’d obviously all become Bulls fans, a lot of us are already, but we’re hoping that he makes the right decision and stays. If he doesn’t, we support that too.”
During a Cyclone Tailgate Tour stop in Clear Lake on May 20, Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard commented on the situation.
“I think everyone needs to take a step away from the ledge. I recognize it’s tough on you guys [media], it’s tough on the players, and it’s tough on fans,” Pollard said. “At the end of the day, Fred has done a tremendous amount for our institution, and the last five years has been pretty special.”
The Bulls’ serious interest in Hoiberg has been an open secret around league circles recently, according to reports. However, it’s unclear as of now whether Chicago has a firm commitment from Hoiberg to jump to the NBA, or if Bulls management simply felt compelled to part with Thibodeau under any circumstances due to their toxic relationship.
If Hoiberg does end up replacing Thibodeau in Chicago, he’ll have big shoes to fill in terms of team success. During his five seasons of coaching the injury-riddled Bulls, Thibodeau posted an impressive 255-139 regular-season record and made the playoffs every season.
“What the future holds, I don’t have that answer. That’s a personal decision that [Hoiberg] has to make and it’s complicated,” Jamie Pollard said on May 20. “I’m not mad at him about that, I’m mad about the situation because I’m sure that you guys don’t want to keep talking about it too. It is what it is, life will go on, and hopefully he’ll be our coach. But if he’s not, it won’t be the first or last time a program has needed to move forward.”