- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
"He's under contract, so yeah," Rivers said before Friday's shootaround. "I don't know why he wouldn't be. I think it would be nuts not to have him here. He's the best coach, one of the best coaches in this league. So if you have that, that's an asset. And I don't think any right-minded organization would allow that asset to leave. Because with all this adversity they've had with injuries, if you allow that one to leave, things will fall apart. And that would be pretty much a guarantee."
Plenty of speculation has surrounded Thibodeau's future with the Bulls given his tenuous relationship with the team's front office. While all parties have maintained they have a solid working relationship, they don't always see eye to eye. The tension grew larger last summer when the Bulls decided not to bring back assistant coach and Thibodeau confidant Ron Adams.
Thibodeau did not want to comment on Rivers' comments, but he was in a joking mood.
"Obviously, I have a lot of respect for anything Doc does say," Thibodeau said. "But to go down that path ... every day there's something going on. Now, the rumor about my date with Kate Upton, started by me, I'm not commenting on that either. So let's move on."
Rivers knows how hard it can be to leave one organization for another, given that the Boston Celtics traded him to the Clippers over the summer.
"You're always going to miss what you left," Rivers said. "Because I left a pretty good situation there. But I went to a good situation. Once you make a change, the change has been made and you just do it. You go to work and this is where you work."
Rivers said that while he was deciding where he wanted to coach last summer, he spoke to Thibodeau more than anyone else about the situation.
"We talked a lot," Rivers said. "Yeah, we talked a lot. I leaned on a lot of coaches. And that didn't help honestly, because they all had their own opinions. Larry Brown, [Gregg] Popovich, I talked to so many guys. At the end of the day, everyone had an opinion and I was just messed up. So I should have just left it alone from the start, but Tom I probably talked to the most by far."
In the short-term, Rivers hasn't been surprised by the fact Thibodeau has the Bulls winning games despite losing Derrick Rose to another season-ending knee injury and trading All-Star forward Luol Deng. The Bulls go into Friday's game against Rivers' Clippers having won nine of their last 11 games.
"I'm not [surprised]," Rivers said. "I worked with the guy, it felt like 30 years, but he's the best. One of my best friends, number one. But he's the best mind I've been around, too. He has a way, he believes in it and he makes his players believe in it, and that's where Tom and I are very similar. We don't believe because a guy gets injured, no matter [who] the guy is, that the team should start feeling like they can't win.
"I always say we pay everybody on the team. We don't pay two or three guys and everybody else plays for free. Everybody makes a contract and you should show up to play. Thibs, this year, it's been amazing what they're doing. But last year was amazing. He took that team to the second round. So it's just what he does."
Rivers said he and Thibodeau still speak all the time and continue to give each other advice.
"We talk a lot about basketball and we always will, so that will never change," Rivers said. "We bounce things off each other a lot and in some ways it does help being in different conferences because now we can actually talk real basketball strategy at times too, so it's been a lot of fun."
The two have had a strong relationship for years, dating to Thibodeau's days as an assistant on Rivers' staff in Boston. They have always been supportive of each other, both publicly and privately, and that continued Friday.
"I think every year's his best coaching job, honestly," Rivers said. "Last year he went through it, the year before, every year people keep expecting them to fall and they don't, and the guy that's standing there is Tom Thibodeau. He's the guy. He's the difference. He holds them together somehow.
"Obviously, they make trades. They trade Deng away and yet they keep winning. So the guy that's standing there every day is Tom. I just think it's been impressive what he's done, not just this year, I thought last year was just as hard, and some ways harder, because you kept thinking Derrick may come back. So you just got to take your hat off to him."
Thibodeau did reveal some good news for his team Friday, noting that veteran power forward Carlos Boozer will be able to play against the Clippers after sitting out Wednesday's game in Cleveland because of a left calf strain.
No matter who may be on the floor, Rivers knows that the Bulls will give their best under Thibodeau.
"It's his system, but it's more of his way," Rivers said. "He just doesn't relent. He doesn't believe that if a guy gets injured, even a guy like Rose, that the team should go away. I think he instills that in his players -- and he has some pretty good players that believe that.
"I mean, [Joakim] Noah is the other guy to me that stands out on their team. They have a lot of like-minded players to Thibs. Noah is that way, [Kirk] Hinrich is absolutely that way. [Taj] Gibson is becoming that way, and I think it's all because they've been around Tom."
9mMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon
15hMicah Adams, ESPN Stats & Information
7hBaxter Holmes and Larry Coon
6hIan O'Connor, ESPN Senior Writer