While Tom Thibodeau is locked in as the Chicago Bulls coach for the coming season because the team exercised their option on him, negotiations on a new deal are not going so well. The sides cannot agree on the dollars or length of the deal as the Bulls appear to be cautious moving forward.
With all of the talk about the NBA draft and new point guard Marquis Teague, the Thibodeau situation got lost in the shuffle, but K.C. Johnson brought it to the forefront in the Chicago Tribune Friday.
He cited the teams' extension for former coach Scott Skiles as a possible reason for the Bulls reluctance to break the bank for Thibodeau. In 2005, Skiles was given a three-year $13.25 million contract as a reward for the teams' return to relevance.
Things quickly turned sour as the players grew tired of Skiles' demanding ways. That should be a cautionary tale for Bulls' management.
Once you start to lose, the players begin to tune you out. It happened to Skiles and it will happen to Thibodeau. It's not a formula built for sustained success.
The one advantage Thibodeau has over Skiles is a better relationship with his players. Skiles seemed to have a perpetual scowl that intimidated rather than inspired.
It helps that Derrick Rose has bought in, but even Rose might get frustrated if the Bulls can't get over the hump.
A coach has to learn to temper his demands. There's a time to crack the whip, but you also have to be able to back off when the situation calls for it.
That's the part Thibodeau doesn't seem to get yet, and it's one of the main reasons Bulls' management is proceeding with caution.
Tacking on too many years and too much money makes it harder to pull the plug if things go south.
He's had unparalleled success his first two seasons with the team, but his style is more akin to a troubleshooter who comes to a company—turns it around—then moves on to the next one.
His defensive system would probably work anywhere he goes. Maybe not to the level of success he has had with the Bulls—but success nonetheless.
If the Bulls don't meet his demands, Thibodeau won't have trouble finding another job. Teams will be lining up for his services.
But just like with Chicago, there will be an expiration date on the label. Go beyond it only at your own risk.