The Chicago Bulls announced Thursday morning that they were firing head coach Tom Thibodeau. The team's press release announcing the move was actually impressively detailed in some of the reasons Jerry Reinsdorf was making the change.
The Chicago Bulls have a history of achieving great success on and off the court. These accomplishments have been possible because of an organizational culture where input from all parts of the organization has been welcomed and valued, there has been a willingness to participate in a free flow of information, and there have been clear and consistent goals. While the head of each department of the organization must be free to make final decisions regarding his department, there must be free and open interdepartmental discussion and consideration of everyone's ideas and opinions. These internal discussions must not be considered an invasion of turf, and must remain private. Teams that consistently perform at the highest levels are able to come together and be unified across the organization-staff, players, coaches, management and ownership. When everyone is on the same page, trust develops and teams can grow and succeed together. Unfortunately, there has been a departure from this culture. To ensure that the Chicago Bulls can continue to grow and succeed, we have decided that a change in the head coaching position is required. Days like today are difficult, but necessary for us to achieve our goals and fulfill our commitments to our fans. I appreciate the contributions that Tom Thibodeau made to the Bulls organization. I have always respected his love of the game and wish him well in the future.
According to numerous reports over the last few months, tension had been growing between Thibodeau and the Bulls front office. The team won 50 games this year, and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thibodeau helped the Bulls turn around following a pair of mediocre seasons under Vinny Del Negro. They were 41-41 each of those two seasons, and then improved to 62-20 in Thibodeau's first season. They added talent heading into that season, but Thibodeau seemed to prove he was a pretty solid coach over his time in Chicago. Of course, compared to Vinny Del Negro, a lot of people could do that!
I bring all this up in part because of this tweet.
Harbaugh. Thibodeau. You don't fire these coaches because of personality. You deal with it and win. And "Harbaughed" needs to be a verb.— Adam Schein (@AdamSchein) May 28, 2015
The 49ers suggested Jim Harbaugh left in a mutual parting of the ways. Jed York will likely argue this until the end of time, and Jim Harbaugh has acknowledged it could be viewed by some as mutual, even if it does not seem like that following the last half of 2014.
I can't say with any remote certainty what was going on in Chicago with these interpersonal relationships. On the one hand, if you are winning, personalities should figure out how to behave like grownups. On the other hand, after getting to the Eastern Conference Finals in Thibodeau's first season, they never advanced beyond the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the ensuing four seasons.
I am willing to give the Bulls a little credit for at least admitting it was a personality conflict. That doesn't make it any better, but at least they did not try and wiggle around the realities of the situation. I don't know enough about basketball to make comparisons between Thibodeau and Harbaugh as turn-around artists. I know Thibodeau was viewed as a defensive guru, and the Bulls job was his first as a head coach. Maybe the Bulls can find another solid coach, maybe they end up back in mediocrity.
The Bulls have a lot of talent in place, but depending on their next head coach, they could join the 49ers in heading into the 2015-16 season with a lot of question marks. These are certainly not exactly comparable situations, but given the way Harbaugh departed, it is hard not to at least think of the similarities.