NBA Roundtable

Thibodeau Joins Bulls

In Coaches Corner on June 6, 2010 at 2:31 am

The Chicago Tribune reports

Though no official announcement will come until after Thibodeau serves as associate head coach for the Celtics in the NBA Finals, multiple sources confirmed the longtime assistant accepted a three-year deal worth roughly $6.5 million.

Sources indicated Thibodeau, 50, is expected to keep Pete Myers on his staff and bring with him former Bulls and current Thunder assistant Ron Adams. Other candidates include Thunder assistant Maurice Cheeks, former Knicks assistant Andy Greer and former Kings coach Eric Musselman.

Former Bull Rick Brunson will be considered for a player development role, joining expected holdover Randy Brown. Mike Wilhelm will continue as advance scout.

The second half of that article has good information. Worth checking out.


Odd Signing

I am surprised the Bulls signed Tom Thibodeau. They seemed to be very serious about hiring a proven coaching commodity. Someone who had been through some playoff wars and shown that he was capable of leading a playoff team deep into May and June. Then to go out and hire another first time head coach? Surprising.

I also thought the Bulls wanted to come out and make a statement of intent to all prospective free agents. That they were committed to winning and wanted to bring in the best possible people to make that happen. A coach with a big reputation and history and of winning. Again, Thibodeau doesn’t fit the bill.

So, I find Thibs a surprising choice for the Bulls organization.

Good Head Coaching Candidate

That all said, I have always liked (for well over a decade from his time back with the Knicks) Thibodeau as a head coaching candidate and I am very happy that he has finally gotten his opportunity.

He has shown great attributes as an assistant coach, particularly in the following areas:

  • Defense — coached some of the best defensive teams in the NBA for the last twenty years.
  • Player development — big role in helping several players improve; in particular Yao Ming who waxes lyrically over Thibs’ impact on his development.
  • No star treatment — One of the few assistant coaches who has the bottle to get in a star player’s face and let him know when he is screwing up.
  • General Coaching — Doc Rivers and Jeff Van Gundy both speak glowingly about Thibodeau’s work in all areas of coaching saying that he has an impact across the board and is not just a defensive specialist.
  • Respect — the respect that star players around the league have for his defensive systems, for how difficult Thibs make it for them to get baskets (Kobe Bryant for example). Once the star player respects you and lets you coach him, the rest of the team usually follows suit.

In summary, I think Thibs is a fantastic head coaching candidate and good hire. I am just surprised the Bulls went for him at this point in time because I don’t think he helps their free agency hopes.

More On Thibodeau

Jackie MacMullan wrote a terrific article on Thibodeau in the Boston Globe the other day.

Tom Thibodeau earned his reputation as a defensive guru through meticulous research and impassioned conviction.

“Tom knows his stuff,’’ said big man Kendrick Perkins. “He eats, sleeps, and breathes defense.’’

If only they knew.

Consider this scouting report on Boston’s 50-year-old basketball savant:

“Allergic to defense,’’ reports former Salem State teammate John Furlong. “If he scored 20 and his guy got 19, that was a good night.’’

“Tom very rarely crossed halfcourt without launching a shot,’’ claims Nate Bryant, who played for Thibodeau at Salem State. “He used to scrimmage with us, and if his shot didn’t go in, it was because he was ‘fouled.’ And if someone scored on him, which happened all the time, he’d call him either for a travel or a double dribble.

“He was a sore loser. The worst I’ve ever seen.’’

“Tibs could well be the best coach and worst defender I’ve ever seen,’’ Van Gundy declared. “He had poor lateral quickness. He didn’t seal off passing lanes. He could still score inside, but he couldn’t guard anybody.’’

More information on Thibs

Van Gundy was initially drawn to Thibodeau because of his innovative offensive sets, among them kick-and-drive sequences and his positioning of the big man at the baseline instead of on the block, providing extra space for a driver to finish or drop the ball off.

Van Gundy was also taken with Thibodeau’s player development skills. While most assistants taught individuals with one-on-none drills, Thibodeau blended those skills into the team concept. He didn’t just chart a conditioning program; he went into the weight room and explained specifically why each exercise was beneficial. Thibodeau spent hours in the film room schooling each player on how to isolate tendencies that would reap benefits in the final seconds of a critical game.

“His dedication to the individual player was way above the norm,’’ Van Gundy said.

Read the whole article, it is a fantastic read — link — Jackie MacMullan is my favourite NBA writer out there these days.

Yahoo Sports

Yahoo Sports has an interesting article on LeBron James and how the Thibodeau hiring and the firing of Danny Ferry + Mike Brown are fitting into his free agency picture.

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