Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Bulls Loss Could Mean End of Thibodeau’s Tenure and Change for Iowa State, St. John’s
May 12, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
CHICAGO — The ouster of the Chicago Bulls from the Eastern Conference playoffs could set into motion a series of dominoes that will end Tom Thibodeau’s coaching tenure in the Windy City and ultimately have an effect on the coaching staffs at two college programs.
Iowa State head coach Fred Holberg has long been linked to the Bulls job, while Chicago assistant Ed Pinckney could now wind up on Chris Mullin’s staff at St. John’s.
“Yeah, until they tell me I’m not [the coach] I expect to be here, so that’s the way I’m approaching it,” Thibodeau said in a deadpan after the Bulls were trounced by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, 94-73, at United Center.
Even the Bulls players sounded resigned to the end of the Thibs Era.
“I think Thibs is a hard worker,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said. “He’s always had us prepared and now we just don’t know what the situation is. We all have a lot of great memories.”
Thibodeau has two years left on his deal but is expected to be courted by the New Orleans Pelicans (where he could coach potential MVP candidate Anthony Davis) and the Orlando Magic.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” he said.
As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst pointed out on the air on Thursday, Thibodeau will likely want front-office control at his next stop, similar to what Doc Rivers has with the L.A. Clippers and Stan Van Gundy has with the Detroit Pistons.
Meantime, the Bulls will likely say they want to keep Thibodeau in order to get something in return, possibly a first-round draft pick. And the Pelicans will likely say they are looking at other candidates in order not to give up too much in the way of draft picks or salary for Thibodeau.
As for Holberg, he has long been linked to his former team and is tight with Bulls GM Gar Forman. Sources told SNY.tv the Bulls have already talked to Holberg this season.
“He has always said from day one that his lifelong goal has been to coach in the NBA,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said of Holberg, according to the Ames Tribune’s Travis Hines. “It’s for him to decide when that part of his life he wants to activate.
“Now it’s just strictly a decision for him and their family personally, not what he wants to do because he’s made that clear. [The NBA is] what he wants to do. It’s a matter of when he wants to do it.”
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported last week that Thibodeau’s departure is “inevitable” and that Hoiberg would be “management’s choice” to replace him.
Hoiberg is coming off heart surgery and would obviously have to feel he is healthy enough to take on an NBA job, but it appears nearly inevitable that he will have an opportunity to consider coaching the Bulls.
Whoever coaches the Bulls next will take over a playoff-ready team led by a resurgent Derrick Rose, who played well down the stretch after battling major knee injuries the past several seasons.
“He hasn’t played in three postseasons but playing in the last five regular season games and getting this experience is really good for him,” Thibodeau said of Rose.
“I think he’ll have a great year next year. I think he has a lot of confidence right now in where he is.”
Meantime, St. John’s has an opening on its staff alongside assistants Barry “Slice” Rohrssen and Matt Abdelmassih and Pinckney could slide right in.
Mullin and Pinckney are close friends dating back to their Big East playing days, and sources told SNY.tv he’s the favorite to fill the third spot, which has remained open since Mullin took the job April 1.
“There’s a lot of different candidates,” Mullin said last month.
If Pinckney joined the staff, St. John’s would have a loaded set of recruiters going forward. Pinckney is a former NCAA champion and Villanova assistant who knows the recruiting ropes as well as anyone.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.