When Tom Thibodeau flames out, everyone will swear they saw it coming.
We went over this on Tuesday. The man is brilliant, the man is obsessed, and no man can keep up that level of intensity forever. The Chicago Bulls head coach might be well on his way to consecutive Coach of the Year awards, an NBA first, but the note that began can also destroy. Thibodeau's genius and drive might wear out, soon enough. Even Michael Jordan, when it became too much, had to retire. Three times.
(The preceding two paragraphs are absolute garbage, by the way. Presumably, this is what the Chicago Bulls are telling themselves, as they put off extending Thibodeau's relatively slim coaching contract. ESPN's Marc Stein's reported last week that Thibs was "dismayed" at the fact that his bosses had yet to pony up to the man who is keeping their injured squad atop the NBA standings, a non-move that falls directly in line with the team's parsimonious past.)
Everyone grumbles about a gig, and it would be no surprise if some associate of Thibodeau's breathlessly took an aside straight to Stein as if it was some world-ender. This isn't to discount his reporting, we've no doubt that Thibodeau would prefer to be handed a new contract, or to at least be told that the third year of his contract will be picked up (contrary to some reports, he won't be a "free agent" this summer), but it doesn't take much to relay dismay.
Bulls GM Gar Forman wants you to know that everything is fine, Derrick Rose is so, so not hurt, and that Thibodeau is totally being treated way better than Phil Jackson and Scott Skiles ever were. And that Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is a sweet guy that loves to spend money on basketball teams. From ESPN Chicago:
"To us it's a non-issue," Forman said on "The Carmen, Jurko & Harry Show" on ESPN 1000. "Obviously we think very, very highly of Tom and his staff. Jerry (Reinsdorf) even come out and said it, we're hopeful Tom will be our coach here for a long, long time.
"We actually this fall initiated extension talks with Tom, and they were very productive. And then the season started and as you guys know the season has been extremely hectic ... I know Tom and his staff and our staff we all wanted to concentrate on the season, so we decided at that time to table it, but they had been very productive up to that point. And we'll get back to talking about an extension when the season is over."
There was a lockout in 2011, you'll recall, and teams were not allowed to negotiate or even talk to NBA players between July and mid-December. Teams were more than allowed to talk with coaches, though, and the idea that the Bulls waited until "fall" to discuss a different contract and/or extension with Thibodeau falls right in line with what we've known about the Chicago Bulls for nearly two decades.
The team is cheap, in all the wrong places. It might throw lifetime contracts and gifts aplenty at certain employees, but Jerry Reinsdorf continues to harbor some weird obsession with keeping his coaches in line. And, once he does pay the going rate for a coach (like when he took great pains to point out that Phil Jackson was the highest paid non-GM'ing coach in the NBA, following 1997's contentious offseason), Reinsdorf will take to the media with smarm and sass, complaining about the price of business.
Remember, this is a guy who still hates to deal with coaches that have agents. Because NBA head coaches shouldn't have legal representation in negotiations, apparently.
The Bulls are loaded. They make heaps of money and have never paid the luxury tax. The squad will be on the hook for four eight-figure deals soon enough, but they've also kept the payroll pretty tight in the 14 years since Michael Jordan's 1997-98 contract expired. The team made Jackson's life borderline untenable, it messed with Scott Skiles' head after he led a team full of rookies and castaways to an overachieving 47 wins in 2005, and the organization has no excuse for letting Thibodeau dangle like this.
This shouldn't be a story. And yet the coach of the NBA's best team, a coach relying on C.J. Watson and John Lucas III to make his hay, has to deny reports and tell the press on record that he's "fine" and that the Bulls have been veddy, veddy good to him.
Because of Tom Thibodeau, the Chicago Bulls enjoyed nine playoff games at the United Center last year. They're likely to take on just as many, if not more, starting later this month. The team makes money. The team wins, incessantly, and Derrick Rose can't even walk right now. Luol Deng's bum wrist can't help you with your groceries, ma'am, and Rip Hamilton retired sometime last fall.
Pay the man. End the drama, extend his contract, and embrace what he's done for your franchise. To blame failed negotiations on a "hectic" NBA season is a joke. Write a number on a napkin that shouldn't leave any room for negotiation, and help make room on Thibs' mantle for his second Coach of the Year award.