The Pelicans Are Lurking In Case Tom Thibodeau Can Fill Their Coaching Vacancy

Tom Thibodeau is the current coach of the Chicago Bulls, but the New Orleans Pelicans can’t even wait until his team is done with their playoff run to start courting him.

According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, it’s a back-room strategy to put Thibs in place as the new leader in NOLA:

And speculation among rival teams and coaching industry sources immediately turned to a head coach who is still employed: the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau, who was a candidate for the New Orleans job when the team hired Williams.

Long-simmering tension between Thibodeau and the Bulls’ front office is now common knowledge throughout the league, and rival teams expect the Bulls and their gravelly voiced, defensive genius to part ways once Chicago’s playoff run is over.

New Orleans was due for a change, despite Monty Williams’ tenure as sideline captain. Anthony Davis is a certified monster in the lane, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan were prime players. Williams did his best to corral the sometimes redundant wing talent (Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans), but ultimately couldn’t keep his subs happy or rally with a unified playing style that got the most out of Davis and the shooters around him.

Tom Thibodeau is nothing if not systematic. He enters this next stage of his career battling the acrimony typical of coaches under Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf (i.e. Phil Jackson), and the notion he might not be able to lead this Bulls squad past the mighty efforts of LeBron James.

That means it’s time to reshape, and Thibodeau might thrive with Davis as the cornerstone of his strong-side defensive scheme. New Orleans, in recent years, is a source of intrigue to fans and coaches alike, as John Reid of theTimes-Picayune explains while backing up Berger’s report on Thibodeau:

League sources confirmed on Wednesday that the Pelicans are waiting to see if the Chicago Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau are going to part ways. If Thibodeau is let go by the Bulls, he could possibly emerge as a candidate for the Pelicans’ job.

In June 2010, Thibodeau was a finalist for the then-named New Orleans Hornets head coaching job with Williams. But the franchise turned its attention to Williams after Thibodeau, who was a Boston Celtics assistant at the time, indicated he planned to pursue the vacant Bulls job, which he took.

Although sources have not confirmed, potential candidates for the Pelicans’ vacancy could include former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks, former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, Warriors current lead assistant Alvin Gentry, Pacers assistant and former Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan, former Sacramento Kings and Pelicans assistant Mike Malone, Chicago Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin, University of Kentucky coach John Calipari, former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets [sic] Jeff Van Gundy.

That’s a who’s who wish list for the Pelicans, but they have as good a chance of landing a big-name candidate as anyone. Except, Thibodeau doesn’t come without caution flags, either. The one-time defensive maven for the championship Celtics has never gotten much offensive creativity from his squads, and he’s notorious for riding players until their tires deflate (see: Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose). Is New Orleans so sold on his skills as a strategist they overlook the risk of The Brow getting taxed beyond his health?

Based on insider rumors, it seems so.

It’s also worth mentioning, Louisiana native Joe Dumars might be circling the decision-making perch of general manager Dell Demps. A league source told Berger on Tuesday, “the people whose names were on the press release may not be the ones making the decision.” Dumars is tight with owner Tom Benson and Vice President Mickey Loomis, but Basketball Insider’s Steve Kyler said Demps is still in charge of finding the new coach.

What that last part means for Thibodeau is anybody’s guess, but he’s not likely — if he parts ways with the Bulls — to jump into another tense situation where ownership and management may not be on the same page.

(CBS Sports and The Times Picayune)