The Chicago Bulls fired coach Tom Thibodeau on Thursday, freeing up a candidate that many speculate has a chance at the New Orleans Pelicans job.
Thibodeau went 255-139 in his five seasons with the Bulls, an average of 51 wins per season. He is considered one of the best defensive minds in basketball and has ties to Pelicans’ all-star forward Anthony Davis.
Thibodeau was an assistant on the U.S. team that Davis played on at last year’s world championships.
New Orleans had a chance to hire Thibodeau five years ago.
The Bulls and the then Hornets wanted Thibodeau when he was an assistant with the Boston Celtics.
Thibodeau wanted to wait until the end of the playoffs, but the Celtics reached the NBA Finals and lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
The then-New Orleans ownership didn’t wait and hired Monty Williams, who was then an assistant at Portland.
Williams was fired on May 12 after five seasons after his team was swept in the first round of the playoffs by Golden State.
Thibodeau’s Bulls, meanwhile, finished fourth in field-goal percentage defense this past season and reached the Eastern Conference semifinals where they lost to eventual Eastern Conference champion Cleveland in six games. The Pelicans finished 23rd in field-goal percentage defense.
He led the Bulls to playoff trips in all five seasons and won the Central Division twice. His winning percentage was the second best in team history, trailing only legendary Phil Jackson.
Despite Thibodeau’s success, he and the Bulls’ management didn’t see eye-to-eye.
“Days like today are difficult, but necessary for us to achieve our goals and fulfill our commitments to our fans,” Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. “I appreciate the contributions that Tom Thibodeau made to the Bulls organization. I have always respected his love of the game and wish him well in the future.”
Thibodeau’s availability adds another name to the list of potential candidates.
Also Thursday, YahooSports reported that the Pelicans interviewed Vinny Del Negro for the job.
Del Negro, a former player, coached for five seasons with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers. Del Negro, who has 210-184 career record, reached the playoffs four times and reached the Western Conference semifinals in 2012 with the Clippers.
Golden State associate head coach Alvin Gentry, former coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy and Scott Skiles are among the other coaches who have reportedly been interviewed for the job by general manager Dell Demps.
Demps played for Skiles when Skiles coached in Greece.
Follow Rod Walker on Twitter @rwalkeradvocate