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Saturday, June 5, 2010
Thibodeau brings experience, respect

By Nick Friedell

Why did the Chicago Bulls decide Tom Thibodeau was the right man for the job?

Here are a few reasons why the Boston Celtics' assistant will be introduced as the new head coach of the Bulls once the NBA Finals end:

 Tom Thibodeau
Tom Thibodeau hasn't been an NBA head coach but he has almost 30 years experience as an assistant in the NBA.
1. A player's coach: By almost all accounts, Thibodeau is beloved by the players he has coached. He is able to break down each player's game and consistently finds a way to make them better. Players respect his work ethic and trust him. In listening to players speak about him over the past few years, it's clear that he has the ability to connect with all types of players."Tom's a workaholic," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said recently. "I'm always catching him in there working, watching film in his office. He's probably the most prepared coach I've ever seen."

Celtics forward Glen Davis may have summed up the team's feelings towards Thibodeau best.

"I have no trouble following a guy who knows exactly where he's going," he told the Boston Globe.

2. More than a defensive guru: Thibodeau made a name for himself, at least nationally, by essentially being the defensive coordinator for the Celtics. But if you ask his peers, there is far more to him than simply being a defensive whiz. The Bulls wouldn't have decided on him unless they liked what they heard when he started talking about his offensive principals. Rivers and former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy, who hired Thibodeau in New York and Houston, made it a point in recent weeks to go out of their way to praise Thibodeau for his ability in other areas of the game as well. One of the biggest knocks on former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro was that he didn't run a very imaginative offense. It will be interesting to see how Thibodeau incorporates Derrick Rose and any prospective free agent into this new era of Bulls basketball.

3. Basketball is his life: Thibodeau is the first guy to enter the gym in the morning and the last one to leave at night. Ask most people about Thibodeau, and his work ethic is one of the first things that they will mention. That's not a knock on Del Negro, who was also a very hard worker and routinely put in long hours, but Thibodeau sounds like the type of guy who will watch game film until his eyes bleed. He has earned a reputation as a workaholic and that will probably fit in nicely alongside Rose, who is regularly the last player to leave the Berto Center.

4. No NBA head coaching experience? No problem: Thibodeau may not have much head coaching experience (just one season as a head coach at Salem State), but he does have plenty of coaching experience as he gets set to lead the Bulls. He has been an assistant coach/scout for nearly three decades, and the organization must feel confident that he can impart that wisdom on its young core of players. The biggest knock on Del Negro was that he had no previous coaching experience before he was hired by the Bulls two years ago. He was learning on the job, and he had troubles at certain points, especially in his first season, with game situations.

In an ironic twist, Thibodeau actually coached Del Negro when he played with the San Antonio Spurs in the early 1990s so it will be interesting to see if the pair ends up discussing the job at some point in the next few weeks.

It was widely assumed that the Bulls would go after someone who had previous head coaching experience, especially considering that actually passed over Thibodeau two years ago when they hired Del Negro. But in the end they must have felt as if Thibodeau gave them the best chance to win right now. Surely there will be some fans who wonder why it took so long for Thibodeau to land a coaching job, but I thought Van Gundy gave the most direct answer when the Orlando Sentinel asked him that very question recently:

"He's a serious-minded professional but in the job market, that's almost been construed as a negative," Van Gundy said. "In that, he's too serious. Now when you start getting knocked down for being too serious about your job, then you know we have a problem in America.

"He has a good way with players, particularly star players. He's direct and honest, but he has a very good sense of humor."

That is what the Bulls are banking on, and that is probably one of the biggest reasons why they've decided that he is the right man for the job.