Mar 31, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT
It’s easy to get lost in the recent past.
The Bulls are a monstrously successful organization. They’ve won six championships in team history, all in the past 21 years, and have consistently made the playoffs. They’re an ATM machine for their owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, who also owns the White Sox, an equally successful venture. They have Derrick Rose, they signed Carlos Boozer, they extended Joakim Noah and Rose. By all accounts they are a team that pays to play and isn’t gunshy about spending for excellence.
Not really the case historically. Reinsdorf is the anti-Dan-Snyder in a lot of ways. He’s reluctant to throw money out there, is inexplicably patient and careful with his spending, and yet consistently manages to win. But dating all the way back to Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan, the most successful coach and player this side of Auerbach’s Russell Celtics, Reinsdorf has unnecessarily drug out negotiations for extensions. The truth of the matter is that Reinsdorf managed to get Jordan for well below market value in a drastically different era of the CBA because, well, to be frank, the man is tighter than a diamond.
And we’re seeing that same trend carry through. He threw the max extension at MVP Derrick Rose. But reigning Coach of the Year, probable repeat-winner Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau who has made the Bulls into some sort of giant-mawed, carnivorous demon that devours everything in its path? Yeah, he can’t get the dough for his future. And ESPN reports that he’s not so much OK with that.
Thibodeau associates privately insist that the NBA’s reigning Coach of the Year is dismayed that he hasn’t been offered a more lucrative extension after signing a modest two-year contract with a team option when he joined the Bulls. Sources close to the situation say, furthermore, that his displeasure with the situation is an open secret in team circles. Although the uncertainty about his future hasn’t had any discernible impact on Thibodeau’s famed game-night intensity, it’s a development that has to be monitored.
Extending Thibodeau sooner rather than later would figure to be a smart move from Reinsdorf, since the coach’s value presumably can only spike if Chicago overcomes its injury woes to win a championship this season. But Bulls historians would note that Phil Jackson and Scott Skiles likewise had to battle Reinsdorf before extracting a representative salary from the boss.
Thibodeau, loathe to ever let a distraction brew a month out of the playoffs with his team humming like a finely tuned engine even without Derrick Rose, still out with an injury, spoke with ESPN Chicago and tried to straighten things:
“I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Thibodeau said. “I’m not worried about any of that stuff. I’m under contract. I’m fine with everything here.”
Without going into specifics, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told The Tribune last month that he expects Thibodeau to remain with the team for years to come.
“We certainly hope and expect that Tom will be with the Bulls well beyond his current contract,” Reinsdorf told the Tribune via e-mail.
It’s a stance Reinsdorf re-affirmed to ESPNChicago.com columnist Melissa Isaacson on Friday afternoon.
You can see both sides here.
On one hand, pay the man. He won the most games in the league last year, he’ll likely win the most games in the league this year. He’s pieced together the best defense with a first-and-second-year Turkish guy who looks like Judge Reinhold, Carlos Boozer’s painted-on defense, and Kyle Korver. He’s put Derrick Rose in a position to win MVP. He’s managed lineups, timeouts, made adjustments, and survived significant injuries over the past two seasons to Joakim Noah, Boozer, Rose, and Rip Hamilton. He’s worth every penny. His voice makes Tom Waits sounds like honeybutter and he’s so animated on the sideline he’ a .GIF machine. He’s the coach every team’s fans in this league wants outside of San Antonio. There’s nothing short of a title, well-within reach this year, that he can do more.
Pay the man.
But you know what? Reinsdorf if getting great value everywhere he turns. He has the best team in the league, record-wise, and he’s still not in the luxury tax? He might be able to get the cost of Thibodeau down. Fifteen years ago he scoffed at the value Phil Jackson wanted to return to the Bulls, a meager sum in today’s game. But he did pay him, did get him back in. He’ll get Thibodeau back, this is just about saving a few dollars, which Reinsdorf, ever the businesman, is always looking to do. Even the son and chairman, Michael, is following his father’s approach. You have to admire it, even if it seems insane.
Thibodeau’s not going anywhere. There’s not a better job. He’s set to contend with Rose for 12 more years. Over a decade. He has the support of a major market team and plays in a nice building. This is just an unnecessary drama being played out over some money. It may be unnecessary, but it’s the way the Bulls do business.
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