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posted: 2/25/2014 8:52 PM

Thibodeau situation sounds like Harbaugh's

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  • Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has a few words on the sideline during Sunday's loss to the Heat at Miami.

      Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has a few words on the sideline during Sunday's loss to the Heat at Miami.
    Associated Press

 
 

Tom Thibodeau and Jim Harbaugh might as well be Tom Harbodeau and Jim Thibaugh.

They are in similar predicaments, or more precisely have put their respective teams in similar predicaments.

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Thibodau is the Bulls' outstanding basketball coach and Harbaugh the 49ers' outstanding football coach.

Each is so respected that the Browns reportedly attempted to lure Harbaugh out of San Francisco and the Knicks reportedly are interested in luring Thibodeau out of Chicago.

Harbaugh has multiple years remaining on his contract, but one rumor is that the 49ers wouldn't mind letting him go for compensation.

Would anyone around here be surprised if the Bulls were willing to do the same with Thibodeau?

Friction in an organization can be endured only so long before somebody like Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf or 49ers CEO Jed York says enough is enough.

So what's the problem with their current teams? Neither can get along with his immediate boss, that's what.

Pockets of the world are rife with parties that are struggling to coexist: East and West in Ukraine, dictator and rebels in Syria, conservatives and liberals in Congress.

To say nothing of sports general managers and head coaches.

This week SI.com posted a story about acrimony inside the 49ers' organization that sounded a lot like the Bulls' climate.

Passages included "reports of tension" and the coach's "personality can be grating at times" and "higher-ups may have to choose between" the coach and general manager … sounds oh so familiar.

Teams: Bulls and 49ers.

Powerful executives: Reinsdorf and York.

Primary combatants: Bulls general manager Gar Forman vs. Thibodeau and 49ers GM Trent Baalke vs. Harbaugh.

Combine the Bulls and 49ers and you get a great tag-team bout. Go to your respective corners, fellas, and come out feuding.

The levels of dispute sure do appear to be rocking the halls of both the Bulls and the 49ers.

So why does the coach have to be the one who goes? Because on a daily basis the GM is closer to the top and better positioned to schmooze than the coach is.

Whispers already are circulating that Forman has made a point of being best friends with Michael Reinsdorf -- Jerry's son/Bulls president.

We have seen Jerry Reinsdorf allow then-White Sox general manager Hawk Harrelson to fire manager Tony La Russa and enable then-Bulls GM Jerry Krause to withstand the barbs of head coach Phil Jackson and superstar Michael Jordan.

So if it comes down to Forman or Thibodeau, well, the precedent has been established.

So what's the problem with these people anyway? Egos, that's what, along with lack of like on one side and of respect on the other.

My theory always has been that if a franchise has a great coach, management has a responsibility to find a way to keep him.

That isn't so easy when the coach is a Tom Thibodeau or a Jim Harbaugh, someone whose tires-screeching personality keeps his bosses up at night.

Reports out of the Bay Area indicate if Baalke and Harbaugh can't resolve their differences, York would pull a Reinsdorf and side with the general manager.

The rationale would be that Baalke has stocked the 49ers' roster with enough talented players that Harbaugh isn't the only coach who could win with them.

Here, the general perception is that Thibodeau is better at what he does but, crazy as it is, the Bulls might prefer Forman.

In the short term, the 49ers and the Bulls will attempt to keep functioning through the dysfunction.

In the long term, both these organizations likely will have to look for new head coaches.

Maybe the answer for each is a straight-up trade of Tom Thibaugh for Jim Harbodeau.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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