- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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To understand what is happening right now in the public face-off between Tom Thibodeau and the Chicago Bulls' front office, you have to understand one basic question: Can both parties coexist and succeed together in the future?
Yes, Thibodeau has three more years on his current contract. He's proven himself to be one of the very best coaches in basketball. His players get sick of his domineering style sometimes, but they still respect him because he wins. They have bought into his system completely, and it shows in how hard they play each night.
The issue for the Bulls is that all of that is secondary right now. The will-he-stay-or-will-he-go storyline involving Thibodeau is hovering over everything the organization does. It's become this summer's version of the endless "Derrick Rose watch" that engulfed the Bulls throughout last season.
The latest wrinkle to the Thibodeau story is that the Golden State Warriors plan to ask for permission to speak with the veteran coach after firing Mark Jackson on Monday, according to Yahoo! Sports.
The fact that any team is asking about Thibodeau's availability is telling in itself. Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson have repeatedly praised Thibodeau publicly for the job he has done, but apparently the rest of the league doesn't believe those sentiments mean much.
It appears as though all the ups and downs that Thibodeau and the front office have experienced over the past couple of years have led league executives to believe that Thibodeau can be let out of his contract for the right compensation.
What is that compensation?
Nobody knows the answer to that question, but it's still a safe bet that the Bulls would listen if the Lakers offered up their lottery pick this season. The Warriors don't have the kind of high draft pick that would interest the Bulls, so that seems like more of a longshot at this stage.
So why won't either side just come out and say Thibodeau is staying put?
From the Bulls' perspective, the front office's approach has always been that they don't respond to rumors. At this stage, that is how they are viewing the recent Thibodeau news. He's under contract to the Bulls for three more seasons, so why should they have to say anything about a coach who is locked up for the foreseeable future?
From the Thibodeau camp perspective, why would they come out and knock down rumors about their client? They have to believe the more interest, the better. Like most professionals, coaches want to be wanted, and Thibodeau is no different. He appears to be happy in Chicago and has had a lot of success building the culture he wanted over the past four years. But maybe all the public back and forth over the last few years has worn him out. Maybe he wouldn't mind starting fresh in a new place with an even bigger say in personnel. Maybe the Bulls wouldn't mind adding another asset in the form of a lottery player.
This is what happens as the days pass and both sides remain silent. Speculation persists. Doubt over the future lingers. In the end, it all comes back to one question regarding Thibodeau's future: Can he and the Bulls' front office coexist in the future?
If they can, then the inquires from other teams will fade away. Thibodeau and Forman will issue a joint press release and the matter will be quashed. Thibodeau may have three years left on his contract, but the oddity in this situation is that until he signs a new one, until he and the Bulls make another public declaration for the future, fans are left to wait and wonder about what's going on.