Chicago — In five seasons under Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls soared to heights they had not reached since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were collecting championships.
They never, however, got to the top with him.
And now he is out.
The Bulls fired Thibodeau on Thursday, parting ways with the strong-willed coach who took the team to the playoffs in each of his five seasons only to have his success overshadowed by his strained relationship with the front office.
"It is our strong belief that there needs to be a culture of communication that builds a trust throughout this organization from the players to the coaches to the management and to the front office, a culture where everyone is pulling in the same direction," general manager Gar Forman said. "When that culture is sacrificed, it becomes extremely difficult to evolve and to grow."
Thibodeau went 255-139, a .647 winning percentage that ranks seventh in NBA history among coaches with at least 200 games. He led the Bulls to the top seed in the playoffs his first two seasons and was coach of the year in 2011, the same year Derrick Rose became the league's youngest MVP.
He thanked Chicago fans, his players, staff and their families "who have honored me and the Bulls by their effort, love, dedication and professionalism."
"We are proud of our many accomplishments, fought through adversity, and tried to give our fans the full commitment to excellence they deserve," Thibodeau said in a statement. "I love this game and am excited about what's ahead for me with USA Basketball and the next coaching opportunity in the NBA."
Chicago advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011, but it's the only time the Bulls made it past the second round under Thibodeau, who had two years left on his contract. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, who has not returned to work full-time following open heart surgery in April, is widely viewed as a top candidate to replace him.
The move comes two weeks after the Bulls were eliminated by the Cavaliers with a listless effort in Game 6 of the East semifinals that came on the heels of an injury-filled 50-win season.
Forman said the Bulls spent the past week or so conducting exit interviews with players and organizational meetings. He insisted management was not holding out the past week for compensation for Thibodeau and would have granted teams permission to talk to him had they asked — but none did.
Either way, the gulf between the coach and his bosses was too large to bridge.
Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf made it clear that the gulf between the coach and his bosses was too large to bridge in a long, scathing statement that said the organization has succeeded in part because of "a willingness to participate in a free flow of information." and that "internal discussions must not be considered an invasion of turf, and must remain private."
Thibodeau is not the first successful Bulls coach to lose in a clash with management. Phil Jackson lost to Jerry Krause after winning six championships in eight years, and the dynasty of the Jordan era was dismantled.
Under Thibodeau, the Bulls enjoyed their greatest success since the 1990s. But with Rose suffering season-ending injuries to each knee in recent years — he played in just 61 regular-season games since he tore the ACL in his left knee in the 2012 playoff opener — and LeBron James standing in the way, Chicago could not get to the top.
Along the way, Thibodeau chafed at minutes restrictions placed by the organization on Rose and Joakim Noah, who was coming off knee surgery, along with veteran Kirk Hinrich. Those restrictions were based on the medical staff's recommendations.
The Bulls also let assistant coach Andy Greer go.
Warriors guard Klay Thompson is feeling better and on track to return for the NBA Finals next week after taking a knee to his head from Rockets guard Trevor Ariza that caused "concussion-like symptoms."
That's according to Thompson's father, former NBA player Mychal Thompson. He said his son's energy was up and his appetite was back, but he still needs to pass the league-mandated concussion protocol.
... A source with knowledge of negotiations between Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat says talks are at an impasse, and he is considering options, including leaving the team that drafted him in 2003.
The person says Wade and the Heat had talks on Thursday about his contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side has publicly discussed the negotiations.
Wade can choose to opt out and become a free agent this summer, or play the last year on his deal and earn about $16.1 million next season.
... Shelvin Mack will have surgery for a Grade 5 separation of the right shoulder on Tuesday, and the Hawks guard said he would miss 3-4 months with the injury, which included ligament damage.