Chicago Bulls: End Of The Try-Hard Era


May 12, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau speaks to the media prior to game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

As Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau enters what could be his last game with the team on Thursday night, the time has come for Bulls’ fans to embrace the end of an era. An era that will be remembered by false hope and disappointment. 

Thursday night could mark the end of an era for the Chicago Bulls.

On Thursday night, the Bulls play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of their second round series. The Bulls trail the Cavaliers 3-2 in the series, and with a loss on Thursday, the Bulls could be entering a summer of significant change.

The biggest change for the Bulls will be their head coach. The overwhelming expectation is that the Bulls and head coach Tom Thibodeau will part ways. With two years left on Thibodeau’s contract, it seems unlikely that the Bulls will fire their current head coach. Instead, the Bulls will likely workout a trade with a team such as the Orlando Magic or New Orleans Pelicans. Both the Magic and Pelicans have been earmarked as the favorites to land Thibodeau in the summer.

With the potential trade, the Bulls will also be dealing away their current reputation.

Gone with the inevitable trade, or at least parting ways, of Thibodeau will be the Bulls’ reputation as the try-hard Bulls.

Under Thibodeau, the Bulls have developed an identity as the little engine that could. Often undermanned, the Bulls would find ways to rally against the odds. A perfect example of that identity came during the 2013-2014 season when the Bulls earned home-court advantage in the playoffs despite Derrick Rose having suffered his second major knee injury.

But, for as exhilarating as the try-hard era was, it will be best remembered by false hope and disappointment.

In their five seasons under Thibodeau, the Bulls have gone 255-139. In 3 of those 5 seasons, the Bulls won 50+ games including 62 games during the 2010-2011 season. The 62-win season ended with the Bulls losing to the Miami Heat in 5 games during the Eastern Conference finals.

The 2010-2011 season would be the only season that the Bulls reached the Eastern Conference finals under Thibodeau as the team lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2012, lost to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semi-finals in 2013, and lost to the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference first round in 2014.

While the Bulls are not eliminated from the 2015 NBA Playoffs yet, winning two consecutive games against the Cavaliers may be beyond the try-hard Bulls’ reach.

Thibodeau is a tremendous regular season head coach. The reason why Thibodeau’s teams are so successful during the regular season is because the head coach treats every game like it is Game 7. That mentality is enough to get the Bulls to the playoffs but that is where Thibodeau and the team is exposed. Exposed in the sense that a team needs more than a try-hard mentality to win in a legitimate seven-game series.

So, what is next for the Bulls and Thibodeau?

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Thibodeau will likely go to the Magic or Pelicans and lead either team back to relevancy in the Eastern Conference.

For the Bulls, the team will likely turn to a head coach that is willing to be Gar Forman’s puppet. That could be Golden State Warriors’ assistant coach Alvin Gentry or, if the front office has decent persuasion skills, Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg.

Hoiberg would be the ideal option but Gentry shouldn’t be discredited either. Whoever the head coach is that the Bulls’ front office hires to replace Thibodeau, they will bring a new era. An era that will be sold as the opposite of Thibodeau’s. It may not be the try-hard era anymore, but perhaps, the next era can alleviate the disappointment from the previous one.

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