Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski found it an easy decision to add Tom Thibodeau to his staff this summer, thanks to a scouting report from two of his former Duke Blue Devils.
“Before the announcement was made about him being one of the assistants I asked my guys who played for him. I have a couple guys who've played for him in Chicago, and they love him,” Krzyzewski told ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell on Tuesday. “They say, ‘Coach, we're unbelievably prepared. He's the best. We fight for him and we know he'd fight for us.’”
Krzyzewski is confident the defensive-minded Thibodeau will bring the same energy to the national team that he brought to the Bulls the last three seasons.
"He's probably more intense [than I am]. He looks more intense. I love him,” Krzyzewski said.
Thibodeau and New Orleans Pelicans’ head coach Monty Williams are newcomers to Krzyzewski’s staff, which will build Team USA for the 2016 Olympics, with Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim returning to the staff. Their first competition together will be the 2014 World Cup of Basketball in Spain.
“We had 28 NBA players in Vegas for a little camp [in July], and it was kind of like a scrimmage for us as a staff to get to know one another,” Krzyzewski said. “We developed a nice friendship over the summer and it will only grow over these next four years. I'm really pleased that I have a chance to have him on my staff.”
Thibodeau was happy to get the chance to learn from Krzyzewski and the rest of Team USA's staff.
"Anytime you could be around a coach like that, and not only Coach K but like a Jim Boeheim, and Monty and of course, [USA Basketball chairman] Jerry Colangelo, I think you learn from every situation that you're in," Thibodeau said before Wednesday night's preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. "So it was a great experience for me and more probably from a leadership perspective, and how clear and concise they all are.
"A guy like Jim Boeheim, just the courage of his convictions to believe in what he does and not to try to be anyone else. He's Jim Boeheim. And the same could be said for Coach K. And then when you look at all the things that Jerry Colangelo has done, it's just incredible and Monty is a terrific coach. I just enjoyed [the experience] a lot. I learned a lot while I was there. You learn from the players as well so it was good. All positive."
Bringing his defensive skills to the national stage is something Thibodeau will no doubt take very seriously. And at least one Team USA player knows what’s in store.
"To have the opportunity to represent our country in the Olympics in 2016, I'm thrilled, very excited about it,” Thibodeau said when he was named to the staff in June. “I'm looking forward to working with all the great coaches, Derrick [Rose], and the rest of the great players.”