The Chicago Bulls came away from their interview of Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau impressed by his basketball knowledge and consider him a top-three candidate, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
Thibodeau interviewed well -- with Bulls GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson -- according to one of the sources. That source also said it's premature to call him the top candidate because the team also is talking to other coaches.
Thibodeau was offered the Hornets' head coaching job last week and then set a Thursday deadline for him to accept, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein. But sources said Thursday that the team then decided not to enforce that deadline.
The Bulls already have interviewed Houston Rockets assistant Elston Turner, as reported by ESPN Chicago.
One source told ESPNChicago.com that while nothing is imminent, these situations have a way of progressing quickly.
Thibodeau's Celtics opened the NBA Finals on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Bulls are looking for a coach with a distinct philosophy, according to one of the sources, and Thibodeau is known as the defensive architect of the Celtics. He also was an assistant with the Knicks and Rockets under Jeff Van Gundy, who raves about Thibodeau.
"Tom's a workaholic," Celtics forward Paul Pierce told ESPN Chicago 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 coach Doc Rivers agreed.
"It's tough to get a picture of him, because he's always in the office," Rivers told ESPN Chicago "He is, he's terrific.
"Tom has great focus and [the players] buy in. That's really important. You can sell it, what we want, but we make it a point that, if you don't buy in, you don't play. I think whenever you have a -- [Orlando Magic assistant] Brendan Malone, the same thing here -- the Magic know Brendan, just like [the Celtics] know with Thibs, Stan [Van Gundy] is going to back Brendan 100 percent and I'm going to do the same with Thibs."