Firing A General Manager Is The Easy Part

Firing A General Manager Is The Easy Part
Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, at left, and general manager Gar Forman speak to reporters about the team's decision to fire head coach Tom Thibodeau on May 28, 2015. (Anthony Souffle / Chicago Tribune)

No matter where, when or who I converse with on all matters pertaining to Bulls basketball, one theme consistently permeates through all discussions - fire Gar Forman.

In the wake of 10 losses through their last 15 games, the Bulls' inept play has emotions running high among the fan base, and with it groans of displeasure grow stronger.

I understand why this notion exists. I get the frustration that has led to #FireGarPax hashtag being used as a salient closing to many tweets within my timeline over the last few weeks. It all makes sense, and on some days, I find myself agreeing with the group-think. But when the anger subsides and I've cooled off several hours post a frustrating loss to a sub-.500 team, I start wondering if firing Gar Forman is the easy part of the equation?

What happens next?

The simple answer is you find a replacement. Sure, that seems logical enough and I'm positive the common answer to the replacement would be, "ANYONE"! But isn't that part of the problem? Unlike when a player or coach is booted from an organization, as a fan, it's much easier for us to make an educated guess as to who the potential successor for the outgoing member of the organization should be.

With access to virtually every NBA game live on our TV's, computers or cell phones, we the supporters have been empowered with an array of tools through various mediums to gauge which player's compatibility fits onto the roster, be it via free agency, the NBA draft or through trade (even if seldomly used).

The same theory applies to coaches. It doesn't take the most astute fan to identify the difference between the best and worst of league's tacticians. There is a clear distinction between Gregg Popovich and Bryon Scott, and their placing within the hierarchy of coaches is easy pinpoint. So whenever a role within an NBA franchise requires filling, building a list of willing and capable coaches and players is effortless and obvious.

Can we say the same for NBA executives, though?

Hands up if you had heard of, or knew of the experience and skills of Tommy Sheppard, Arturas Karnisovas or Gersson Rosas? If your hand is raised, I'm sorry, but I'm going to assume you're lying.

All three men currently hold high ranking executives roles with the Washington Wizards, Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets, respectively. Notably, all three have been identified as potential replacements for Billy King, the recently fired General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets. If Mikhail Prokohov hadn't decided to pull the pin on King to start his search for a new GM, I doubt very much that their names would be receiving any notoriety from those outside of the close knit NBA community.

Other candidates for the vacant Nets role, are some names we may be more familiar with. Former Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors General Manager, Bryan Colangelo, has also been shortlisted, as has Danny Ferry, who spent time with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks.

We know of the resume Colangelo and Ferry have built over the years, but this knowledge only comes with the luxury of hindsight. We've learned of their competency, but prior to their first stint, could the common fan really offer any substantive intel or forecast their success?

So it's clear, I don't claim to know enough about rival team's backroom executives. I wouldn't have the slightest clue which Assistant General Manager from outside the Bulls organization I'd like to see chosen as Gar Forman's replacement. I don't know enough about one's role, background or experience outside of what Google tells me. That's all I have, and my assumption is that's all you have, too.

One name you frequently do hear as an alternative to Forman, is former Bulls front office executive, Matt Lloyd. Serving as an Assistant General Manager for the Orlando Magic since Jun. 29, 2012, Lloyd spend 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls, with his last role being Director of College Scouting, which he held for 5 years.

For multiple reasons, Lloyd's name surfaces as the angst aimed at Forman builds. With amicable and existing relationships to key members of the Bulls' staff, the "who you know" factor favors Lloyd as a suitor. Familiarity is key, but more so is the goodwill assembled by Lloyd during his tenure as Director of College Scouting, to which it's said he had been critical in identifying late first-round talent such as Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson.

As a scout, Lloyd was obviously terrific at his job and most certainly deserves any praise bestowed upon him for his role in the drafting success during his time with the Bulls, but outside of this, do we really know enough about the man to propose that a promotion to a General Manager role is justified? Does he have any experience in dealing with player agents? How about with sponsors, investors and other elite bigwigs with some semblance of sway within a franchise? Is his knowledge of the salary cap and its encompassing minutia understood to he nth degree?

Maybe he has these skills? Maybe he doesn't. I don't know, and that's the point.

There is a lot of work that goes into being a GM of an NBA team. It's not just about calling up a counterpart and offering up your own terrible player's for another team's quality assets, even if we like to play pretend and envision it as such. It's far more intricate and nuanced than we'll ever know from our vantage point, so it's tough to mount an argument about who should supersede Forman.

The unknowns from a fans perspective shouldn't prevent any executive's name being added to a list of suitors, nor should ignorance and limited information be reason enough to firmly sit on the status quo. If change is needed, let it come. Allow the powers that be to make the suitable call. No matter how just it may seem, you're free to plead for Gar Forman to be given the boot, but just know that you're citing a problem without offering a logical or informed solution to his successor.


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  • Classic stuff. TV-viewing fans fee entitled to a championship. When they don't get it, they want blood in the form of seeing someone fired. I don't know anyone who is a fan of Gar -- I think he's a erase myself -- but I don't think firing him brings LeBron to the Bulls, nor does it turn the Bulls into the Spurs. Bulls might even lose their solid track record of drafting in the first round, but at least the fans would feel better that someone lost his job. When that fails it will become #sellthebulls

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I think the way they handled the Thibs firing put them in this position. Gar and Pax basically said this is a championship caliber team and Thibs is the only thing holding us back. So when they and their hand picked college coach start sputtering to reach Thibs performance marks that is what is causing the heat to rise.

    There is no quick fix but I strongly believe Gar and Pax will never build a championship roster. So belittling those who dislike the leadership style of the mini dictators as thinking all will be immediately better is stupid.

    But standing pat with the same flawed core for the next five years is dumb and that is where GarPax will lead us. So maybe we get a worse GM than what we got but we were drafting well before Gar so I place very little weight to that argument. In fact the whole Ron Adams debacle was caused by Gar ignoring others and drafting the inept Tony Snell.

  • In reply to Chad:

    You, sir, have been moaning about the Bulls and GarPax since long before the firing of Thibs and before the firing of Ron Adams. So it's a little late for you to now say it's because of how they handled Thibs' firing.

    I'm not sure if you meant to call me or the strawman POV you created for me "stupid," but since you don't even seem to know your own POV, I would be careful about that.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    There's a difference between moaning about GarPax and explaining the reasoning for why they are about to get run out of town. I personally have never said GarPax should be fired, until now, so does that mean I can say what Chad "can't"? Nonsense.

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    Forman hasn't proven that he is capable of drafting well (since Lloyd left), and we all know that the front office is incapable of executing a trade that actually improves the team, instead trading players for nothing in return and dumping players to save money . I don't know who to hire either, but there's no doubt that both John Paxson and Gar Forman need to be fired.

  • In reply to Colin Spence:

    Clearly they need to find someone from the Spurs management/coaching tree. Not sure if there are any of those guys left worth hiring right now, so I don't have a name off the top of my head, but certainly somebody with Reinsdorf's ear should know.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    You do realize that their defensive coach is directly from the Spurs?

    Sure he's just the lead assistant, but he's obviously the one running the suddenly incompetent defense, so...?

  • The Bulls are a cash cow and as long as the United Center is full, they will keep their jobs.GarPax, the decision makers know how to keep their jobs by pacifing us and somehow giving and restoring fan hope! A player will be traded, or some other way they will respond to us fans false hope.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    Couldn't agree more. You have an absentee owner who spends his winters in Arizona. All he cares about is the team's spreadsheet he can periodically look at from afar on his laptop. As long as the uniformed North Shore nitwits keep ponying up $ for season tickets for their bratty kids and trophy wives, real fans like us will continue to suffer.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    given the level of envy in that post, must be a Sox fan, although Reinsdorf owns them too.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I hate baseball.

    Not envious, but I do go to several games a year at the United Center. It seems to me that the ticket season holders are just going to Bulls games to hang out. The wives looked bored, the teens are on their cell phones and the kids can't wait for a stoppage in play to enjoy the festivities. I don't think they can tell the difference between a NBA game and when the circus is in town. And the Sugar Daddies are there holding on to old memories of His Airness.

    The problem is these people will show up no matter what. So there is no incentive for "great businessman" and absentee owner Jerry Reinsdorf to improve the team. So fans like us who want to see real NBA basketball in Chicago are being held hostage.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    Yea, unfortunately this is now the successful business model for sports franchises. Fill the place up with premium and super premium seating and turn it into an "entertainment" experience, a place to see and be seen. This does tend to take the hard core fan out of the equation and greatly diminish the intensity of the atmosphere in the stadium. I'll never forget the atmosphere of the old Chicago Stadium for both Bulls and Blackhawk games, back when the average fan could afford to attend almost any game, heck even a teenager could.
    The Artis Gilmore Bulls vs Bill Walton Portland playoff game in the late seventies has to be the loudest most intense game ever anywhere, the place was packed to over capacity with the SRO crowd. Pretty much anytime the Blackhawks scored a goal was amazing also, the place was literally rocking. Unless you live in a smaller city with only one or two teams, you are never getting that experience again.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    Vic - you are totally right. I am a grown up north shore brat no longer living in the Chicago area. The UC is so damn quiet right now it's ridiculous. On TV, it looks like everyone is sitting and totally bored. Other stadiums around the league get way more energized, especially out in Boston, OKC, Golden State, etc... Clearly, the "real" fans are not really attending these games. While the fans at the game probably want the Bulls to win, they are not die-hard fans and could care less if the Bulls lose.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    I think people misunderstand Reinsdorf. He wants to win and knows better than nothing pays like winning.

    What he won't do is pay for not winning or pay when there isn't a high probability of winning. For example, when Rose was injured, the Bulls weren't going into luxury tax to keep Korver and Asik and that really irked a lot of people. Why would a team so profitable as the Bulls need to worry about the price tag for some really good players? Because Reinsdorf won't pay unless it's for a legit title shot. I'm not saying that's great owner behavior and frankly, he's not a great owner, but he's a fairly typical owner. The previously heralded Mickey "he doesn't care about profits like Reinsdorf does" Aronson wouldn't pay to keep Mike Miller on a championship team.

    Either way, this team's goal is not to just fill the stadium -- they don't even have to be competitive for that. They tried really hard to get LeBron and later Melo, but there are many teams and only a few great players. They WANT to win -- if only for business purposes -- but want to pick their spots to really spend for it. I'm not sure if that's how a winning organization behaves, but I can understand their POV.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    The problem with that argument is that Reinsdorf HAS paid for 'not winning'... over and over and over again. He's just reserved idiotic spending for the White Sox.

  • The Bulls need an athletic rim protecting center(ground zero for defense). Portis can barely jump, he is best suited at the 4 and hopefully he continues to work on his midrange and 3pt shot. The Bulls also need a real backup point guard and of course the small forward position. too many holes to be a contender anytime soon. Moore and Hinrich duplicate roles, one has to go. Gasol probably jumps on with a contender next summer and thats fine since he is at the end anyway. A center with shotblocking ability and ability to guard screen and roll would be the number one priority along point guard depth.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    They don't need a backup PG so much as an upgrade at starting PG. Agree about an athletic C, easier said than done. I like penwit's tanking idea to get one.

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    In reply to Roman F:

    Totally agree, They need to get rid of Rose and bring someone better or at least more heart at 1. The wing can be drafted next year, this one is as good as lost one.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Sadly, I finally have to agree with you on Rose. I think what you see now is as good as he's going to get and it is nowhere near good enough, at any price. Basically he's a slacker version of end of career Allen Iverson. Simply not enough heart, no passion for the game. He needs a blood transfusion with Westbrook.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Interesting point about Portis, the zoo at BAB reacted quite negatively when I suggested that Portis is not particularly athletic, plays small in general and is best suited to be a PF not a center. Basically we need WCS, good luck getting him away from Sacto or finding another guy like him. Don't trust the Miami guy, Whiteside, seems like a bigtime dummy, and he'll likely want/get way too much money.

  • It's time for the Bulls to tank and acquire a high draft pick, maximize a trade for Gasol and Hinrich, and get that free agent center you are talking about.
    If we fans can see that then why can't Pax And Gar see that also!

  • In reply to penwit1:

    C'mon man maximize a trade for Hangdog. Gasol should have some value even as a rental, but hangdog's only value would be to a glue factory that ran out of horse's or dog's.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Last time they traded Hinrich, they had to give away a pick to do it. So "maximizing value" would be not actually having to give something up this time.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Maximizing value for Hangdog would mean not having to give up any assets to get rid of him this time.

  • This team has needed new talent on the floor and in the front office for years now, perhaps never more glaring than after their latest embarrassment in the 2015 playoffs. Back when too many fans listened to GarPax and their media goons and convinced themselves all this team really needed was a middling college coach from Iowa to replace their consensus top 5 coach.

    Fans, whether they be fair-weather or dedicated, want their team competing for a championship. This team is old, unathletic, injury-prone, and they're not hungry at all. The roster as constituted will not seriously compete for a championship. That should have been clear to everyone last year and it should definitely be clear now. The rest of the league has changed while the Bulls remain static. It's time for big changes. Find people with the guts to make them.

  • In reply to Hunter:

    If any fans actually believed that this was a championship roster were it not for the coach, shame on them.

    I hear what you're saying but I don't know that much about this roster should have been clear a year ago with the huge Rose question lingering. With an all-star Rose and an otherwise healthy team, especially with Mirotic expected to take another step forward, this team had a chance to be a championship contender. With Rose sucking and Mirotic regressing, NOW it's painfully obvious that this team needs a major shakeup, but the most important element of that shakeup is parting ways with Rose. No FO/Coach can do anything with this team until that happens.

    I tend to agree it's time for new leadership in the FO. They had their run with Rose and it failed, not saying it's all their fault but it's time to give someone new a shot.

  • From Jonathon simmons, the Spurs latest find from the scrapheap.

    "I've always been able to play defense," he said. "I think defense is just effort. You don't have to have a lot of skill to play defense. It's just effort".

    Precisely, which is why I have always despised NBA players who cannot or will not play defense, especially guys who have the physical talent to be allstars, or even fake allstars offensively, but simply refuse to put the same effort into playing D. Not playing D is a character flaw, no matter how great of a human being everybody wants to make you out to be or how many operas you attend.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    A lot of NBA guys are prima donnas. They like the stats, but D takes too much energy for too few stats. So you are basically correct.

    However, as the runner coach said, "I can't put in what God left out!" That is why to become great a team needs a great talent evaluator. Period. The Bulls apparently had two, Lloyd and Adams, and both are gone.

    If an FO does not have the ability to recognize talent, at least they need the ability to recognize who does. Well, they blew it, and that led to the debacle last summer. They could have replaced some of the older, injury-prone guys but they couldn't see it.

    Time for a change. If JR won't move Pax, then at least replace Gar with Lloyd. If Lloyd does not know finances and the cap, then hire an assistant who does. Past time to shake things up!

  • Marc gasol has a broken foot could miss the rest of the season. Now is the time to trade his brother to Memphis, as they've climbed out of their early season hole and are now 5th in the west. They can't afford to slip back any further. they should at least be willing to give up their first, and getting rid of Gasol with no other healthy center on the roster guarantees our pick to be a lottery one, it might be anyway at the rate we're going. Looks like we're not getting the Kings pick this year, so picking up another extra first would be worth it at this point.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    LOVE this idea. Memphis' first round pick might even be decent but they're in no position to play hardball.

    I also like the idea of missing the playoffs for 2 reasons: 1) Higher pick, obviously, with a (remote) shot at Ben Simmons 2) Disgruntled season ticket holders, many of whom won't re-up. That would put pressure on management for a serious shakeup.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Memphis' first round pick is owed to Denver if it falls in the 6-14 range, which is possible with the Gasol injury.

    If you trade for their 2016 pick, you may not even get it, meaning you wouldn't trade for it.

  • In reply to Mark Karantzoulis:

    You get the meaning, something could be worked out, e.g. 2016, if it goes to Denver, then it becomes 2017 unless it's lottery, then 2018.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    That trade is worth a try. Bet it doesn't happen.

  • I agree, talent evaluation is what's needed. Maybe Pax and Gar urgently need to rehire Adams and Lloyd to save their jobs. Those guys knew what they were doing. Now is a key moment.

  • The points people are making about talent evaluation have merit: GarPax had a nice run as talent evaluators when they drafted Hinrich, Gordon, Noah, Rose, Gibson and Butler, and I thought they were geniuses for getting Niko. Now, their last few drafts have produced Teague, Snell, and a very bad-looking McDoug trade. The Portis pick looks solid but was an obvious one at the time. And Niko, not so much. Their overall draft record trend is definitely pointing down, way down.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I don't think Gar was involved in the earlier of the picks you listed. There must have been someone who was pretty sharp tho. Was it Pax? Or Adams? Or Lloyd? Or someone else behind the scenes?

    The FO for the last 3-4 years has looked extremely unprofessional - repeatedly! A change is needed. Would Adams return for the GM position? Would Lloyd come back?

  • Clean house....
    New GM....New FO...New Scouts
    New Coach.....
    Trade or cut players......get down to a low salary.....
    save $$$$$ for any top free agent who wants to lead this team...
    Take the Cubs route.....several years of high draft picks....
    be ready by 2020.......meantime, enjoy the ice capades and the circus.

  • Time to tank. The opportunity has presented itself. Trade Pau, keep guys out when they get injured longer than you usually would, let Hoiberg do his thing.. should be plenty to keep us out of the playoffs.

  • In reply to Chicagosportsguru:

    We definitely agree on something!

  • I liken BuIls situation to the Blackhawks, a change of control from Bill Wirtz to Rocky was necessary before sweeping management change could be implemented with the Blackhawks. In over 30 years, Jerry Reinsdorf has only had two management teams, Krause and PaxGar. And Jerry seems to favor obedience over the demands that truly talented management would place upon ownership.

    As a fan, I can only hope for a change from Jerry to Michael (ala Bill to Rocky) and that Michael Reinsdorf will hire talented executives and not the obedient and passive “yes men” Jerry seems to favor. I doubt Michael currently, or any time soon, will have the authority to change management.

  • In reply to Edward:

    The comparison to Bill Wirtz is pretty far off. Reinsdorf is a good businessman and fairly typical owner. While the Bulls don't go all out the fans wish they would, they are neither cheap nor unprofessional. Bill Wirtz literally didn't care to win a title, was a horrible businessman and horrible owner, and the Blackhawks were not only woefully cheap but unprofessional as well. Reinsdorf won 6 titles, Wirtz would never have won any had he lived to 200. Sure Reinsdorf is overly loyal but that results in a high degree of stability. We'd all like too see that change but it's not the worst thing, it's not like a new owner with a quicker trigger would necessarily bring titles. This isn't a Dolan situation where the idiot owner keeps screwing up the team. The NBA just isn't very dynamic, the teams that luck into superstars are better than those that don't, and it doesn't change as quickly or easily as other sports.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Don't know a ton about the Wirtz family businesses, but they do own a very large and successful liquor distributorship in Vegas, Chicago and perhaps other cities. Have no idea how, what or where that business was built, but it certainly predates Rocky and the other kids taking over.

  • Nobody will see this down here, but here is a nice excerpt from a Pau Gasol article at BAB over the weekend. Pretty much what I've been saying about his underlying nature since he got here. Yes, you can be a great human being and a selfish/self centered lousy teammate.

    "If Pau opts out of his contract in the off-season, how many teams are really lining up to give big money to him, especially if he refuses to come off the bench?"

    "I can't believe the Bulls are letting him get away with (an agreement to start) because what type of message does that send to the rest of the team? We're going to let one guy's personal agenda fuck up everyone else's money because we aren't going to maximize the best interests of the team in order to placate his ego? It's no wonder the mood around the team is so unsettled these days. The one thing about NBA players it that you can't shit a shitter and they know good and well who the best players on the team are and what combinations of players should be out on the floor. It's not rocket science".

    "The front office really isn't even letting Hoiberg do his job if there's a mandate that Pau must start. It made a lot of sense to start Nikola Mirotic and Joakim Noah with Gasol punishing second units off the bench, but there's reason to believe that was never an option".

    "Like Jon said: if you're putting one player ahead of the team, your team is doomed from the start. Look at how much veterans like David Lee and Andre Iguodala had to sacrifice for the Warriors last year. Lee was two seasons removed from being an All-Star and was the highest paid player on the team, but didn't throw a fit when it became apparent Draymond Green made the team better. Iguodala is a better player than Harrison Barnes and I'm sure he knows that, but he agreed to come off the bench because Golden State's second unit needed his ball handling and playmaking ability."

    "Coaches talk a lot about sacrificing for the team. Joakim Noah did it this season when he came off the bench even though he was in a contract year. Gasol wouldn't. Pau is a great guy and real role model by all accounts, but let's not confuse personal kindness with being a good teammate."

    There is a reason that he has left his first 2 teams in a state of chaos, rancor and just plain f'ed up team chemistry. It's about to be 3. He's basically like the in house union organizer, who is always talking about how to make things better for everyone, while secretly only caring about his own power base.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I see the post, and I've come around to believe that Pau, while certainly not the only problem, is a sizable part of the problem. Empty stats with this guy. However, I think by any definition, he's clearly the team's best C so I don't think there's this huge internal perception problem if he hasn't been benched, more just that he has a bad attitude.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Maybe we could trade him to the Warriors on the cheap to help protect the Bulls 72 game record. ;-)

  • In reply to Chad:

    That record is in danger of falling. But, then, records are made to be broken, right? Makes sports more interesting.

    Pau should have some trade value to some team. We will see what the FO can pull off. I cannot believe that there is no contender who would not take Pau for a late first round pick.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Toronto has a first from the Knicks in the barfnagni trade, the lesser of the knicks own pick or denvers, that would be a good haul. I'd like to try to get Delon Wright also by including something else that Toronto might value, Dunleavy, Snell, McAthlete?

  • In reply to BigWay:

    In all the myriad lineups Hoiberg has experimented with, including a short experiment with both Gasol and Noah starting, did he ever try Gasol off the bench? No.

    Hoiberg certainly experimented with everything else, so you have a valid point. Why did Hoiberg not even try it? Every option should have been tried.

    Bulls are a rebuilding team. The only ones not yet acknowledging this fact are Bulls management and ownership. The rest of the league already knows it.

    The best thing that can happen is for Bulls to miss the playoffs and Sacramento to finish high enough for their pick to transfer to Bulls.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Completely agree, that would be the best thing for the Bulls. The way pro sports are structured, if you're not going for a championship, your best move is to be as bad as possible. It's working for the Cubs.

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