When Chicago Tribune’s K. C. Johnson asked Derrick Rose to describe his coach at Chicago, Tom Thibodeau – he gave us a rather different review. “I’ve never played for a coach who was that focused. There’s nothing else – no kids, no wife, no leisure time to watch TV. I’m dead serious. There’s nothing else going on. I’ve never heard about Thibs being out eating. I never ran into him eating anywhere. . . . I’ve never been around a coach like him.”
To keep it simple, Coach Thibodeau is a serious guy who breathes, eats, swallows and thinks basketball – nothing else.
After a breakout year with the Bulls in his first season as head coach, the adored Thibs had won NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2011 and finished runners up in 2012. He is also the fastest coach to win 100 NBA games.
Coaches in the NBA are known to be strict, obsessively compulsive, terrifying, argumentative and blatantly rude, yet motivating. Thibs goes a little further to exemplify it – he doesn’t crack jokes during practice, means business and is known to be brutally straightforward. This seems really hard to digest considering Thibodeau has only been in the business of head coach for two years.
At his practices, Thibs tests his players to the maximum, often asking them to repeat drills for over hours till they perfect it. Ask one of his players and they’ll tell you how Thibs is well-known to be a ruthless corrector.
When any stranger looks at him, his stare reminds them of an angry chef at Hell’s Kitchen. Let’s scratch that: the coach of the Chicago Bulls could get away in Sicily as a Mafioso – that’s how terrifying this man looks and preaches. Despite the image of him being a “psycho maniac of a coach” or “I’m too macho for you”, Thibodeau achieves – something his predecessors at Chicago struggled for years. Since he took over the job from a confused soul of a person named Vinnie Del Negro, Tom Thibodeau has turned Bulls to consistent championship contenders. In short, the less heralded Salem State University graduate governs Chicago basketball with an authority that no one dare defy.
Before he took up his first head coach position after nearly being an assistant for 20 years, Thibs served justice to his tag of “silent killer” with other NBA teams. Specializing in defense, Thibs with head coach, Jeff van Gundy helped the New York Knicks break a then record by holding 33 opponents to below 100 points. He also helped carry out defensive revolutions in Philadelphia and Houston where during his tenure, both the franchises shut out some of the most explosive offenses in the NBA such as Jordan’s Bulls and Miller’s Pacers.
Thibs just doesn’t bring out the best out of the younger players. The 2007-08 rejuvenated Boston Celtics boasting the likes of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, were a team that was tipped to struggle against the league’s younger and quicker stars. While critics kept yapping about how old the Celtics were, Thibodeau quietly orchestrated a defense that topped several categories such as least points scored against, best fourth quarter defense, most steals in the second half and most turnovers gained. His tactics to contain Kobe Bryant in the 08-09 finals which Boston dominated and won just added further notice to why Coach Thibodeau is the real deal.
On June 23, 2010, the Bulls boardroom confirmed that Tom Thibodeau will be hired as the new head coach. Taking on a monumental task to manage one of the most successful franchises of the yesteryears, Thibodeau knew he had his work cut off. Deciding to build the team around Rose and Joakim Noah was rather obvious. But Thibs tactfully enrooted less publicized talents like Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, CJ Watson and Luol Deng, that paid off this past season.
The recently concluded season saw Rose hampered with one injury after another. When news came out that he would be out for a large part of the season, bookies betted against the Bulls treading onto their stranglehold in the Eastern Conference. There was a dearth of world-class talent to carry this team forward but Coach Thibs believed he could progress with what he had. For two years, he plotted to develop the flair amongst his players that would shine if a predicament occurs. That predicament came in the form of Rose’s ACL injury. Just how he envisioned it, Thibs didn’t let results drop – the Bulls were still beating major Eastern Conference rivals and were putting up tough fights in away games against the pedigrees of the Spurs, Lakers, Thunder and the Heat. The Chicago Bulls and Tom Thibodeau managed to withstand their forte and secure the number one playoff seed despite losing their best player to injury. Even when Rose went down in game 1 and Noah in game 3 against the 76ers, the team stuck together under Thibodeau where they sparingly lost to Philadelphia in six games – hadn’t it been for Omer Asik to shoot those calamitous free throws in game 6.
Two seasons have gone by. Thibs has seen the Bulls’ castle stay strong despite various setbacks. The strides this franchise has taken under Thibodeau have been boundless. Never, for 15 years since Jordan left, has the city of Chicago shown this much festivity and belief in their franchise to win another ring. And under Thibodeau, that elusive jewel, last lifted by legendary Phil Jackson, could well come back sooner rather than later.
I, for one, would for sure put my bets on Tom Thibodeau to do that.