Bulls fans celebrate: The Garpax Reign is over

By Steve Jones
Apr. 17, 2020

It has been a long time coming for Chicago Bulls fans, but the wait is finally over. On Monday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Twitter that the Bulls had fired general manager Gar Foreman, who had served with the Bulls for 22 years. Furthermore, the Bulls also gave John Paxson the title of senior advisor of basketball operations, in a move which is widely understood to be an example of kicking someone upstairs.

There will be time ahead to look forward. Bulls head coach Jim Boylen is a dead man walking and will almost certainly be replaced next season. Arturas Karnisovas, the new man in charge, will bring a more analytics focused approach. And maybe owner Jerry Reinsdorf will start caring about the Bulls instead of treating it as a piggy bank for his Chicago White Sox.

But for now, let us look back at these 17 years of failure. Because there has been a great deal of it, and there is a reason why Bulls fans began chanting “Fire Garpax” on national TV this season’s All-Star Break.

What is the Plan?

If we look back at the Bulls since 2003, there have been good moments and the Garpax duo did make some good moves. Derrick Rose fell into their lap, but the Garpax duo has generally drafted well. Jimmy Butler with the 30th pick was incredible, and there were other good picks like Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, and Joakim Noah.

But Isiah Thomas was a solid drafter too, and his Knicks tenure was still a complete catastrophe. And the Garpax era was a failure for similar reasons.

They have been a mess in free agency. They walked into 2010 with high hopes and walked out with Carlos Boozer, a solid player who they nonetheless had to amnesty as he fell off in ways anyone could have predicted. They tried to pair Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo together, only for Wade to bail out in a year. The Jimmy Butler trade was widely panned at the time, and there is nothing we have seen since which has made that deal look any better.

But more important than any free agency or trading failure has been the culture, or the complete lack of it, which has surrounded the Bulls for years now. “Culture” is one of those weird sports terms which often is used post hoc to justify why this team succeeded and this team failed. But while it can be hard to define, there is no doubt that the Bulls did not have it.

If Garpax gets credit for hiring Tom Thibodeau in 2010, then they also get the blame for firing him out of little more than spite and jealousy for him taking the credit for Chicago’s success from 2010 to 2015. Moves like this, like quality moving storage containers, get noticed, and free agents have failed to come to Chicago, one of the biggest markets in this country, because they have been turned off by what they find here.

Now instead of a used-car salesman who managed to keep licking Reinsdorf’s boots, the Bulls have a new manager, one who has been part of more successful teams like the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets. None of this is to suggest that that Karnisovas will succeed. He may end up no better than Garpax.

But after 17 years of working together and not a single NBA Finals berth over that tenure, after bad trades and bickering in the front office, John Paxson and Gar Foreman have sat here too long for any good they have done. In the name of God, go.