With the exception of a brief statement thanking "our incredible fans and the entire city of Chicago," we haven't heard much from Tom Thibodeau in the week since the Chicago Bulls fired him after five successful but tumultuous seasons as their head coach. On Friday, with the Bulls now firmly post-Thibodeau after hiring Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg, Thibodeau made his first public comments since his dismissal, proclaiming himself ready to make like his former employer and focus on what comes next.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
“I have no regrets,” Thibodeau said on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” radio program. “It was a great run. I just move on.” [...]
“Obviously, there were some issues. I don’t want to get into all that,” Thibodeau said. “As I said, I’m very proud of what the team did. When I look back, it’s five years, I think anytime when you have a pro franchise, there’s going to be some carping that goes on along the way. When I look back, I’d rather focus in on the positives. It was a great experience for me. I loved our players. I loved my staff.
“Derrick [Rose] going down was a big hit for us. He missed a major part of four seasons. We really had him for one year when he had the MVP season and that was huge for us. We lost a lot of other guys along the way. But the team always found a way. Sometimes I sat there and I didn’t know how. They did an incredible job. They fought through that adversity. We made the playoffs every year. We gave it our best shot and fell short at the end. I’m going to move on. I look forward to the next opportunity.”
Despite compiling a career regular-season record of 255-139, the seventh-highest winning percentage ever among NBA coaches with at least three full seasons on the bench, and leading Chicago to three 50-win seasons and five straight playoff appearances amid an array of injuries to key contributors, Thibodeau was not only shown the door by a Bulls front office led by John Paxson and Gar Forman, but given a particularly rough heave-ho.
Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, once Thibodeau's considered staunchest supporter in Chicago's power structure, issued a scathing (if laden in human-resources-speak) statement announcing Thibodeau's firing. He chastised the famously hard-charging coach for declining to take part in "free and open interdepartmental discussion and consideration of everyone's ideas and opinions" with other members of the organization without viewing them as "an invasion of turf" encroaching on his domain as the team's locker-room and sideline decision-maker.
"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," Reinsdorf wrote. "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. To ensure that the Chicago Bulls can continue to grow and succeed, we have decided that a change in the head coaching position is required."
Given the chance to respond to those criticisms Friday, Thibodeau elected to focus on the future.
“I don’t worry about stuff like that,” Thibodeau said. “For me, I put everything that I have into each day. So I have no regrets. I’m going to let the record speak for itself.”
He also declined to lend credence to arguments that the dissension between him and the Paxson/Forman duo had any impact on Chicago's on-court product.
“I would like to think it didn’t have any,” he said. “If you allow yourself to be distracted, you’re going to be distracted by other things as well. As players and coaches, you’re going to hear things all the time whether it’s trades or being fired or whatever it might be. I think the important thing is to lock into what you have to do each day, put everything you have into it and then you let the results speak for themselves.”
All the same, though, the 57-year-old sideline lifer said he'd take the lessons he learned from his time in the Windy City — including his unceremonious exit — with him as he prepared for whatever might come next.
“I don’t think you ever want to stay the same," he said. "You’re always looking at how you can do things better. There are some things you may not change, but you always want to add, evolve. I think the big thing is to study and prepare and try to do it better the next time. There’s a lot of things that I learned from the experience. I learned from all my experiences.”
It's not yet clear when, or where, Thibodeau's next opportunity might come.
Now that the New Orleans Pelicans have hired Alvin Gentry and the Orlando Magic have brought in Scott Skiles, the only NBA team that currently has an open head coaching position is the Denver Nuggets. Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that former Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni — who briefly served as Denver's interim head coach during the 1998-99 season — met with Denver brass about the position. Melvin Hunt, who finished the season on the Nuggets bench after Brian Shaw's firing, and former Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone also remain contenders for the job.
- - - - - - -