Source: Hiring not factor for James

Updated: June 20, 2010, 6:44 PM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

The selection of Tom Thibodeau as the next head coach of the Bulls is neither a plus nor a minus in Chicago's pursuit of prized free agent LeBron James, a team source said Monday.

The Bulls were told by a few people close to James that the hiring of Thibodeau would not influence his decision on coming to Chicago one way or the other, and that after reports surfaced that John Calipari might be a candidate for Bulls coach, James let it be known he did not want to be part of those decisions for any prospective team unless it involved someone he really did not like.

Though Thibodeau reportedly signed with CAA Sports, the agency of James' agent Leon Rose and associate William Wesley, the Bulls have a policy of not dealing with coaches' agents and Thibodeau did not have an agent until the end of their talks with him.

Thibodeau was high on the list of Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf from the beginning, and the Bulls had hoped to interview the Celtics assistant right after the Boston-Orlando Eastern Conference final, which they thought would happen soon after the Celtics took a 3-0 series lead. But the Magic won the next two games and the interview had to be postponed.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson rushed to Los Angeles to interview Thibodeau -- who was there for the Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals game -- only because Thibodeau had interviewed and received offers from other teams that were expecting a prompt answer.

With Forman and Paxson liking what they heard in the interview, and Reinsdorf satisfied with what he heard from Thibodeau in a phone conversation, the decision to offer him the job was made quickly.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

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