What Should Tom Thibodeau's Future Be with the Chicago Bulls?
What's almost as shocking as the Chicago Bulls' first round exit against Philadelphia is that their coach, Tom Thibodeau, still doesn't have an extension from management. During the season, there was talk that Thibodeau was not happy with the progress on a new deal, and it was unclear why management wasn't moving faster to get it taken care of.
It makes you wonder when you consider Thibodeau's regular season mark of 112-36, but when you look beyond the record, it gives you a better understanding of why they have been reluctant to to pull the trigger.
An 11-11 playoff record gives reason for caution, as does Thibodeau's propensity to extend the minutes of key players during the regular season.
Thibodeau's philosophy of only looking at the next game instead of the big picture seems to have extended to his players. Carlos Boozer alluded to the team having the best regular season record a few days back when he made it seem like that was so important.
Luol Deng said the same thing in the Chicago Tribune Saturday, "We had the best record, and we were going into the playoffs with the best team."
It seems like the players and their coach equate having the best record during the season with having the best team, and that couldn't be further from the truth.
If nothing else, it shows Thibodeau has done a great job of brainwashing them.
Derrick Rose going along has been the key. If he didn't buy in, the others might not have followed, but the Bulls are more a team of followers than leaders.
Rose is not very vocal. He's a leader by example. The only player on the roster who you could call a leader is Joakim Noah.
Early in his first season, he called out the team for the way they were playing before then-coach Scott Skiles told him a rookie should keep his mouth shut.
That brings me back to the question if Thibodeau is too set in his ways to change, and if management is starting to question his methods.
After the Bulls' playoff game Tuesday, I asked Thibodeau what he thought the team needed to do Thursday in Philly to come home for a seventh game on Saturday. He told me he only thinks "one game at a time."
That's a scary thought and is the basis for my concern. Possibly, it is management's concern as well in him leading the Bulls moving forward.
The club has an option for next year that I'm sure they will pick up, but do they want to extend him several years and give him the kind of money that's basically approving his methods?
I'm sure they weren't happy when Rose went down in the last 1:30 of the first playoff game. Whether they blame him or not for the injury, they have to at least question if Thibodeau's approach is harmful.
Winning at all costs during the regular season doesn't guarantee you anything as these last two years have shown. It's nice having home court advantage, but not when it means your players are beat up or worse.
I know Thibodeau couldn't foresee Rose's season-ending injury, but he put him at risk with how he used him this year. Rose was out five times with injuries, and his first game back, he would play 40 minutes like nothing was wrong.
You have to learn from your mistakes, and you have to be willing to adjust, or if necessary, change your ways.
Thibodeau's strong suit is defense. He teaches a smothering style that makes it difficult for opponents to score, but that's where his strengths end.
He's not very creative on the offensive end and is not good at in-game decision-making. While other coaches adjust, he sticks to his beliefs.
That's detrimental during the playoffs when you play the same team so many games. It's like a chess match, and if you don't make the right moves, you lose your king (Rose).
Thibodeau doesn't have a very good coaching staff to draw off of either. Other than Ron Adams, his assistants are not an impressive bunch. He needs someone next to him who can formulate an offense and is not afraid to stand up to him.
He is so intense during a game, he doesn't seem to understand situations.
When Noah injured his ankle, he didn't realize how bad he was hurt and put him back in the game. He mentioned the trainers cleared him, but had he been more perceptive, he would have noticed Noah could barely walk, let alone run.
If his head is too muddled, he needs someone beside him who has clarity.
Hopefully management is taking all this into consideration.
A few years back when Vinny Del Negro was the coach, John Paxson read him the riot act for his use of Joakim Noah when he was coming back from an injury.
Somebody in the organization has to exhibit common sense.
In K.C. Johnson's column in the Tribune on Sunday, Thibodeau passed on his season-ending thoughts. "Now that it's over, you go back through the season, evaluate everything and formulate a plan and study the things you've done well, and what you (could) improve and sometimes change."
Continuing, he said, "You're always trying to get better. Whatever field you're in, I don't think you should be satisfied or stay the same. You're either getting better or getting worse."
Words are just that and mean nothing. Whether he has learned from this or not is something we won't know until next year.
The question is if Bulls' management has learned from this and how they will proceed forward regarding Thibodeau.
Will they have a talk with him and address their concerns? Do they have concerns, and why have they waited all this time to do what most people thought was a slam-dunk and extend him?
Do they think he's the right coach to get them to the next level?
Until they make a decision regarding his status, we won't know the answer to that.
Do you think he is?
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