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Could small coaching carousel land Tom Thibodeau with Phoenix Suns?

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

It's rumor floating season. Thibs gone? Bring in Hoiberg from Iowa State. Hoiberg gone? Why not I-State alum Jeff Hornacek to replace him?

In that small coaching carousel, what would the Suns do in Hornacek's wake?

How about overpaying Tom Thibodeau, making it a small 3-turn carousel.

Rumor tendrils

For months, there has been expectation of Tom Thibodeau being fired by the Bulls for some crazy reason.

There's little mystery surrounding what both sides want. The story is the same no matter who you check with: Thibodeau and his front-office superiors John Paxson and Gar Forman, despite their public pronouncements to the contrary, are utterly done with each other.

As one source close to the situation puts it: "Thibs is gone. They know it and he knows it."

Thibodeau has overworked his best players over the years, to be sure, but every year his team makes the playoffs and out hustles the opposition despite facing key injuries along the way. Primarily, it was Derrick Rose missing time after time for the past four seasons since winning the league MVP award at age 21. Lately, it's been Joakim Noah becoming a shadow of himself, while Pau Gasol is also out with various ailments.

Sure, it's possible that all the extra minutes have led to Noah and Gasol's injuries at the worst times, but there's no certainty they would have avoided injury with five less minutes a night.

Anyway, it appears that Thibs is gone, according to many reports including that of Marc Stein. A rift with the front office appears to be his undoing. He still has nearly $9 million left on his current contract (two years), but might be on the street within weeks.

Thibs' options and resume

If fired, the Bulls would still pay Thibs that money. No wonder there are rumors of "trading" him like the Celtics traded Doc Rivers. Stein speculates the Magic and Pelicans might be willing to do a deal, but that's no sure thing because they think Thibs might be available anyway.

Rest assured, teams will fight each other for Thibodeau's services if he is available this summer.

His resume is littered with underdog playoff success. The Bulls have made the playoffs in each of his five years as coach, winning four series and making one Conference Finals - his rookie coaching year with Derrick Rose as the league MVP. Since then, Rose has been mostly injured yet the Bulls continue to find ways to win.

He has also created an environment for individual players to exceed their expectations. Rose is quite talented, but Thibs' scheme made him the league MVP. Joakim Noah was a Top-10 draft pick, but Thibs helped him become a perennial DPOY candidate and surprise league MVP candidate a year ago. Jimmy Butler was just the 30th pick in his draft, but is now an All-Star.

Yet he works his players into the ground, and apparently does the same in relationship with his superiors. But Suns GM Ryan McDonough has worked with Thibs before, and might be willing to do it again.

Impact on McBabbacek?

Jeff Hornacek is still the Suns coach, and came in second in the voting last year for Coach of the Year as a rookie coach. He had his growing pains this past season, but is widely regarded as a very good NBA coach. And, he is consistently on the same page with his GM and president. Hence the nickname McBabbacek.

But that page may turn in the next year.

While Ryan McDonough still has two more guaranteed years on his contract, Lon Babby's expires this summer and Jeff Hornacek has only one more guaranteed year, plus an option year.

The Suns are historically loathe to rework deals, however. Managing partner Robert Sarver entered 2009-10 with GM/President Steve Kerr and Assistant GM David Griffin on the last year of their deals. Coach Alvin Gentry was an exception, with one additional year guaranteed plus a team option for a second. Sarver didn't extend anyone after 2008-09, despite barely missing the playoffs after losing Amare to the eye injury.

The Suns had a great year anyway. But after the magical Conference Finals run in 2010, contract talks came due and rumor has it Sarver wouldn't guarantee the Gentry option year let alone give Kerr a raise, which exacerbated Kerr's own situation and led to the unexpected falling out before the Draft.

Maybe Sarver learned his lesson from that disaster? We shall see, as the Suns potentially enter into similar territory as early as next June. While we learn of Lon Babby's fate this summer, next June will mark uncertainty with Hornacek and a final contract year for McD.

The Suns would likely only make a move right now if Hornacek forces their hand and leaves for "greener" pastures this year. Hornacek has one year left, though there's a team option to make it two. But he earns less than Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg and several other college coaches, let alone two-thirds of the NBA's coaches. He was a rookie when he signed, but now he's proven himself and might want to negotiate some more job security either here or somewhere else.

Or, Hornacek might just ride out his contract. We don't know anything right now.

In the mean time, whatever happens with Thibodeau in Chicago and Hoiberg in Iowa could force the Suns hand a year early.

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