With the drama between Tom Thibodeau and Bulls management reaching its end last week, expectations of a quieter and more steady franchise are once again at a high point. At least, this is what the Bulls tell themselves. The conclusion of the aforementioned rift, has created another one, and one with much higher potential for serious consequences, and that rift is between the trust of the fans in regards to management.
Even before trouble arose with Thibodeau, there had been several poorly handed cases on the résumé for both John Paxson and Gar Forman, which ultimately meant that fans weren't surprised to see yet another multi-season soap opera launch on the steps of the United Center. Blame is always subjective and often a tale of two sides, but the fact that management consistently find themselves on one of the those sides has become an uninviting theme throughout the course of several seasons.
There's no reason to re-hash every situation, but when they include physically assaulting a coach, firing another (assistant) coach because he challenged the decision of making financially driven roster moves, botching a situation that includes a spinal tap procedure, throwing that same player under the bus by saying he needed to "challenge himself physically" while having a broken leg, and doing all this in a manner that rejects open media questions and hides transparency, all signs point to a developing problem.
Now, rest assured, management isn't the sole culprit. Del Negro did overstep his bounds regarding a minute restriction on Joakim Noah, even if the final result of Paxson putting his hands on him was indeed unacceptable and inexcusable. Thibodeau was the Mark Jackson version of the Eastern Conference, putting up fight after fight, and constantly drawing parallels to the past. Fair enough, he never deserved the send-off he received, but that was more an ownership decision than anything else.
As for Luol Deng... Well, okay. Management just completely messed up on that one several times over.
But even if blame can be shared in most of their lover's quarrels with coaches, players and whatnot, the common theme of having management present in these quarrels is the problem. It's now reached a point where fans are tiring of that pattern, even to the extent that some flat-out wish to see organizational changes in the form of a pink slip for both Forman and Paxson.
To reiterate, the underlining problem here does not seem to be the fact that management necessarily have been wrong here and there, but rather that they appear to be on lifetime contracts, giving them ample opportunities to be so again and again, but without any sort of consequence. In some manner, it feels like whatever happens, they come out clean despite having equal, and in some cases more, blood on their hands.
Logic would dictate that both Forman and Paxson wouldn't be given another chance if they find themselves feuding with Fred Hoiberg at some point in the future, but the likelihood of them staying, as opposed to Hoiberg, is a favorable one. If you can get away with fighting a co-worker, you can probably get away with anything. The loyalty factor, while admittedly impressive to some extent, has reached levels that now sees fans ask tough questions about the priorities of the team, while generally questioning if ownership is willing to make the tough call of moving on to someone else down the road, if problems keep finding their ways into the inner workings of the team.
To many, the close ties between Jerry Reinsdorf and his leading men is a hindrance, not an asset, and there are growing concerns of them living by a double standard. The much criticized public statement from Reinsdorf regarding Thibodeau's dismissal, included a bit that you have to wonder if management and ownership operate after themselves:
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.
What Reinsdorf is saying here is not wrong, but is it applicable to how the Bulls run their organization? Ron Adams disliked seeing Kyle Korver traded away to save money, and he was vocal about it. This got him fired, even though you can make the argument that Adams was indeed trying to make the point that growing together as a team will lead to success, and moving someone to save a buck doesn't help move that ideology forward. Adams questioned the move, likely several times over, and was fired. The notion here is that you have to listen to your boss, which is true, but that sort of invalidates Reinsdorf's "unified" comment. Both Adams and Thibodeau raised questions regarding roster decisions and were ultimately dismissed in part because of that. With that in mind, Reinsdorf's point about being unified now reads as everyone has to be unified as to what he, Paxson, and Forman decides.
Let's be clear. If that is indeed the thought process, then there isn't anything unified across all platforms. Then it's a soft dictatorship in which the three leading men are expecting blind commitment to decisions based on their know-how and experience - which is admittedly vast - but it'd also assist in destroying trust. Case in point, the Adrian Wojnarowski piece that described just how toxic that environment had become, with an assistant coach "taking no chances" when he turned on the fan in his office to talk about the rift in place.
Additionally, it also doesn't help Chicago's case that their constant inability to give straight answers to any type of tough question, is built on the thought process that they can buy off fans, and the media, with generic responses that offer little to no detail about the things questioned. It's gotten to the point where tough questions at press conferences are almost avoided, seeing as everyone in the room knows they won't get anything of substance that in any way presents an insight to the world that management live each and every day. The Bulls lead the league in politically correctness at press conferences, which hurts them spectacularly when they find themselves in public skirmishes and people are looking for straight answers, and are instead fed lines that could make any politician proud. Ironically, it seems the way they conduct themselves behind the scenes is anything but politically correct, which makes the contrast look that much more drastic.
This reads as an anti-management post, but rather, this is a presentation of a new and deeper perception of the Bulls, who is inching closer to being synonymous with drama and inner-working conflicts. Read it as concern. Read it as a plea for changing times. Read it as advice in actually implementing all the great things Reinsdorf talked about in his quote above, but is not practicing.
The closed-off, non-media-friendly, non-personal, non-engaging, non-transparent communication is a PR problem that has reached a point to which it'll be exceedingly difficult to come back from. Presenting an image of themselves as always being without blame, unless it's absolutely undeniable, is ironically getting as old as Thibodeau looking back to draw parallels from the 90's. Thibodeau didn't get with the program, and is now out the door.
Now it's time for management, and ownership, to prove that they don't live by the double standard they appear to be.