- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN ANTONIO -- Tom Thibodeau hates talking about opponents in advance of a scheduled game.
With that, it was quite strange to hear him speak about the San Antonio Spurs after Tuesday morning's shootaround. The Bulls were facing the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night, but for about 10 seconds, Thibodeau actually allowed himself to speak glowingly about San Antonio when the topic came up.
"The Spurs are the Spurs," he said. "In many ways, they're the gold standard of the league. They've done it year after year for a long time. They have a lot of weapons. But we'll worry about that when we get there."
While discussing San Antonio before Wednesday night's game, it became even clearer just how much Thibodeau respects San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich and his team.
"Ever since Pop's been here, he's built a championship caliber team and organization from top to bottom," Thibodeau said. "In everything they do. To me, when you measure greatness, it's having the ability to do it year after year and he's shown that. So I have a lot of respect for what he's done."
On the other side of the arena, Popovich echoed similar sentiments toward Thibodeau and his team minutes later. He praised the job that Thibodeau has done in his second season and acknowledged that even he wasn't sure why it took the career assistant coach so long to land his first head job.
"I'm not the answer man," Popovich said. "I don't know. Most of what we all do, even in your business, it doesn't matter what; a lot what happens has to do with circumstances more than how well you did. Or how highly your regarded or not. If anybody looks at their career, no matter what field of endeavor, circumstances have a lot to do with everything that's happened to each one of us. Sometimes holding us back, sometimes moving us forward. And each person has his own path. What's good is that Tom got his chance. With a good organization and a good group of guys. And he and his staff have been magnificent."
For his part, Thibodeau is just hoping to create the same kind of long-term success in Chicago that Popovich has built up over his time in Texas. He likes the style the Spurs have created over time and he appreciates that Popovich has done things his own way.
"It's the way they're built," Thibodeau said. "They have everything covered. They hard playing [guys], smart, tough, they can shoot. They fit. They're team oriented. They sacrifice for each other They play for each other. They've had injuries; when one guy goes down, the next guy steps up. Pop has provided great leadership here for a long time."