By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Remember Michael Jordan? He played for the Chicago Bulls and was good and stuff.
And for most of his career, he had a head coach in Phil Jackson and general manager in Jerry Krause that pretty much hated each other.
Six championships were still achieved through the brilliant work of all three, despite the contentious relationships, which included Jordan, who consistently sided with Jackson in the feud. When the coach said he’d never lead a team again after the Bulls’ sixth championship, what he really meant was he would never work under Krause again because he was the Lakers’ head coach only a year later. Jordan, probably thinking ultimatums make you look cool, said he wouldn’t play for any coach but Jackson and so retired a second time when the coach walked away only to return later as a Washington Wizard.
It was really an “all good things must end” situation more than a “How could this team get broken up?” thing. Good as the team was in 1998, it was about out of gas and probably wouldn’t have won another title if they tried to keep the band together.
The current Bulls drama parallels the old in a few ways. It’s now known that general manger Gar Forman and head coach Tom Thibodeau don’t like each other. Forman’s canning of Thibodeau’s right hand man, Ron Adams, a very well-respected coach who didn’t suddenly lose the ability to do a good job, fairly solidified that perception.
As did a subsequent press conference in which the GM said “At the end of the day, Tom is going to recommend who he wants hired. At the end of the day, I’ve got final say over personnel, as far as coaches. But in the past, obviously if I felt comfortable with it and Tom wanted a guy, that’s the direction we’re going to go.” A GM announcing final say on assistant coach choices is something that usually makes a head coach, particularly an obsessive one like Thibodeau, none too happy.
What is yet to be seen but surely will come to a head at some point is how this tug-o-war ends up affecting Derrick Rose’s tenure with the Bulls. Rose is in the Jordan role of Bulls of Our Lives 2.0, albeit not yet reaching MJ status in terms of résumé, of course. He has yet to vocally take sides in this, but it’s not difficult to guess which way he leans.
Rose is someone who has made it evident he’s big on trust. Trusting the right people certainly played a big part in getting him out of Englewood and down to the University of Memphis and then back to Chicago but away from the streets. The expression “Ball is life” applies to nobody better than Rose, and in any life one accumulates role models. For Rose, these have been his brother, Reggie, his agent, B.J. Armstrong, and Thibodeau, whose pathological approach to the game has always fed into Rose’s. All three of those people are not exactly on Forman’s Christmas card mailing list.
During the rehab from Rose’s knee injury, the Bulls front office made it quite clear they and their doctors had followed every protocol and that eventually returning to play was squarely on the star guard himself. There was a calculated approach, for better or worse, to make it known to the public that sitting on the bench in a suit was Rose’s choice. This created questions for Rose that had difficult answers, especially for a shy guy who doesn’t do so well in the heat of camera lights off the court.
What you did not hear was Thibodeau playing the “ball is in Derrick’s court” game. The coach stuck up for his player as best he could with typical vague responses to incessant “When’s he coming back?” questions. Do not underestimate how important those two different approaches are to the loyalties of Rose.
Ditto letting go of Adams, who was supposedly very close to Rose and maybe privately shared in Rose’s public discontent in previous roster moves and who likely had the guard’s back during all the criticism of his rehab approach, with which Adams would have worked closely.
You’ll likely never hear Rose take the Jordan approach of mocking his own GMs physical features and being a downright bully just because he knew he could be, but if this personnel divide continues to fester, Rose will undoubtedly take sides. Forman has made it clear that he has the power in all this and will wield it how he damn well pleases. That doesn’t bode well long term for a personality like Thibodeau’s, no matter what the on-court results are.
The question then is who will ultimately be the casualties in this soap opera? Will this end up being a premature “How could this team get broken up?” situation?
I was saddened Sunday night to hear of the passing of longtime 670 The Score caller “Gary from Evanston” Gerstein. In the oddest of ways, Gary and I were peers for a long time in the weird world of “Who Ya Crappin’?” and the kitsch of the last angry Expos fan endeared itself to so many listeners for years, me being a huge fan of his. To make anybody smile, even on the smallest of levels like a few minutes a week on a radio bit, is a gift, and I’m thankful Gary shared his special brand of Bonanza-laced, The Sports Reporters-watching masochism with us. He achieved cult status, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what Gary looks like in person and if that’s how he really talks. That’s a testament to a lasting, positive impact the guy had, intentional or not.
There are two favorite Gary moments for me. One, of course, is meeting him for the first time. I told him he looked nothing like I expected (other than the Expos hat). He responded by saying I looked far worse than he expected. The other is his best Crap of his illustrious career. For the second Boers and Bernstein “Who Ya Crappin’?” All-Star Edition, Gary pulled out a rant he’d shelved for years. It was so random, so odd, and so hilarious. It was Gary’s pièce de résistance , and I found myself revisiting it Sunday night and nearly choking with laughter just as I did the first time I heard it in person (after getting smoked by Unemployed Lawyer immediately before).
Fittingly, we learned of his death on a day of obscure Bonanza trivia—the anniversary of Michael Landon’s “soul-searching interview” on The 700 Club in 1982. All the best to Gary’s loved ones. Thursdays at 5 will be a little less quirky, and that’s unfortunate.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.