- Jon Greenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Let's start off with this thought: If the Chicago Bulls let Tom Thibodeau go, it would be the most foolish decision this franchise has made since, well, ever. Yes, I'm including letting an aging Michael Jordan walk.
And also this thought: Why would Thibodeau leave these Bulls for these Los Angeles Lakers? I don't care how often Kobe Bryant swears at reporters, his best days are behind him and there's no guarantee the team will be good in the next few years. As we know, you don't do long rebuilds in the NBA and Thibodeau doesn't do them at all.
And also this: Why would the Bulls even let Thibodeau talk to the Lakers?
So where we were again?
Oh yeah, a day after Mike D'Antoni resigned, ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin reported the Lakers want to talk to Thibodeau about their coaching job.
Of course they would, and of course he would, want to talk to Thibodeau. He's the MacGyver of the NBA regular season.
Bryant and Thibodeau are cut from the same cloth. They are win-at-all-costs NBA lifers.
After two coaches, and one Bernie Bickerstaff, in three years in the wake of Phil Jackson's retirement, the Lakers are more adrift than ever. Thibodeau would take them back to the top, conceivably anyway. The maestro still needs an orchestra.
While Thibodeau can be hard to work with at times, and is a singular, unique Type-A person, the Bulls' front office isn't stupid.
No, really, it's not.
Those in the front office know he's an excellent coach, one of the top handful in the league, and that few, if any other coaches, could've had the same success as the last two teams. They know that their chance to win a title involves a healthy Derrick Rose and a crazy Thibs. As Brian Scalabrine once said to me, Thibodeau is a culture changer and there aren't many NBA coaches who can say that.
So the Bulls wouldn't let the Lakers try and poach him. Would they?
It's no secret there are divisions at time, between the front office and Thibodeau, but that's true in most organizations where men have egos. The last two seasons have been especially trying with Rose laid up because of knee injuries. Winning cures all.
On this note, I can't imagine the Lakers would have enough to give the Bulls to acquire the coach. Nor would I imagine they'd offer up their first-round pick, even if Thibodeau is worth more than a pick, when they can hire another coach and keep the pick.
If I were totally wrong and this spark of a rumor turns into a bonfire, I think the Bulls' first call would be to Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. The former Bull is highly respected in Chicago. General manager Gar Forman is a former Iowa State assistant who came here with Tim Floyd.
Wouldn't that be some symmetry? Another Iowa State coach replacing a great Bulls coach, who is off to Los Angeles.
Of course, Thibodeau isn't Phil Jackson and Hoiberg is much more qualified to coach in the NBA than Tim Floyd ... and we're officially entering NBA RumorLand. Enjoy it, folks.
On my way back from a Don Draper-esque afternoon movie, I heard my friends on the radio Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman build themselves up into a lather on why Thibodeau hadn't stepped out and squashed the rumor.
It had been two hours since McMenamin's story went out. That's the world we live in, as they say. Maybe Thibs was in a movie too? ("Grand Budapest Hotel" was very good, by the way.)
Maybe Thibodeau likes the drama.
In January, Thibodeau's future was in doubt when a New York columnist wrote "There are rumblings around the Chicago Bulls' offices these days that Tom Thibodeau already has a deal in place to coach the Knicks next season."
It was a non-story and soon after it died down, the Bulls started winning at a Thibodeauean pace.
As it stands today, Thibodeau has three years left on a very lucrative contract, and unfinished business in Chicago. He has coached Rose for only 130 of 328 possible regular-season games, you know.
And after an unceremonious exit from the playoffs, the Bulls are preparing for another big free-agent push. Yes, again. They're like Mitt Romney, every four years, it's the same dance. But this time it'll be different, I tell you.
When it comes to big-ticket free agents, it's Thibodeau who is the biggest draw. Yes, even more than Joakim Noah and Rose. Players can get injured. The only way Thibs goes down is by spontaneous combustion. His reputation in the league is gold.
So if the Bulls want to land Carmelo Anthony, and they have a chance, however slim, it's Thibodeau who will help lure him. That's what the public doesn't get about ol' Thibs. He's only a maniac on the sidelines and in the practice facility. He's actually a pretty charismatic guy, and he certainly knows how to cajole NBA players. He doesn't speak about money and reputation, he appeals to the competitor in each of them.
Before the season, I was talking to Taj Gibson about Thibodeau's insatiable desire to win. This is what Gibson said:
"That's on his mind all day. Every day we talk, there's always inspirational quotes, previous players' quotes, champions like [Muhammad] Ali. Everybody that's ever won something or has done something big in their life, he reads their quotes, and we just take it every day. We're real focused, we really think about the game. We just think about winning. Every day is focused on guys just winning."
Why get rid of a guy like that? You don't, usually. This story will probably be shot down by the time you read this sentence.
But it's going to be a fun summer, isn't it?