Gar Forman- The Forgotten Bull
The success the Bulls had this season is a quick study in turning a franchise completely around in one season. For all the hype that suddenly accumulated, you would’ve thought Chicago had been a championship contender for years, as evidenced by all four in studio TNT analysts picking them to beat the Heat and win the Eastern Conference. But, that has not been the case.
And who was the orchestrator of this abrupt about-face? Not D Rose, not Coach Thibbs, but Bulls general manager Gar Forman. To put this season into perspective it was the first time the Bulls have won 50+ games since 1997-98. The Bulls have made the playoffs five times in the previous six years, but three of those times were as an eight seed with a 41-41 record which means they wouldn’t have been close to the playoffs if they were in the Western Conference. So everyone who was acting like the Bulls were going to steam roll to the Finals had been drinking the Kool-Aid, for sure.
In his second year as Bulls GM and 13th with the team, Forman had served as a scout, director of player personnel and a special assistant to the VP. With that background, it becomes easier to understand how Forman was able to strip down then ultimately rebuild the 2010-11 Bulls into what they became.
The Bulls don’t enjoy half of the success they had if Forman wasn’t active in free agency. First, Forman acted swiftly at the end of the season and hired Thibodeau, a move that was openly questioned by a lot of people; it wasn’t the consensus “great idea” that it has become in hindsight.
When deals for D Wade and LeBron fell through, Forman grabbed the best of what was available and fit the pieces together signing Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas and Omer Asik as free agents. Then he acquired CJ Watson via sign and trade. Free agents are always a gamble, gut Forman hit on every one.
Prior to that he dumped several players that had made the Bulls roster one loaded with “Tweeners”- guys with no discernable primary position. Tyrus Thomas, Hakim Warrick come to mind immediately.
Then he jettisoned guys who shot too much (or needed to shoot to be productive)- John Salmons, Flip Murray, Jannero Pargo, Kirk Hinrich- or added nothing- Aaron Gray and Lindsay Hunter. By the time that was done, the Bulls only retained five players from the previous season; Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and James Johnson.
The sum total of all these shrewd moves was 21 more wins, a division title, the best record in the NBA and the Eastern Conferences #1 seed. Not a bad year, Mr. Forman. Which is why he was named the NBA Executive of the Year, sharing it with Pat Riley.
When you break down the roster, it’s amazing how far this team got. Just imagine what Forman could pull off with one more offseason.