Doc Rivers said Friday that he is pulling for his good friend and former assistant Tom Thibodeau to receive a contract extension from the Chicago Bulls and be paid like "one of the elite coaches in this league."
The Bulls picked up the option this summer for the third and final year on Thibodeau's contract. Reports surfaced last season that Thibodeau, who led the Bulls to the No. 1 seed in the NBA in each of his two seasons, was unhappy that he had not received an extension. Bulls general manager Gar Forman said talks would resume after the 2011-12 season, but no extension has been announced.
Thibodeau has said publicly that he is fine with his contract situation, but Rivers said coaching on essentially a one-year deal can be tough for a coach.
"I went through it two years ago," Rivers said. "You remember all the talk -- I was going to retire, and it was amazing. I never said I was going to retire. I said I wanted to take a break and that led to retirement. Right before the season (Celtics general manager) Danny (Ainge) and them wanted to talk contract, and I just didn't think once the season started it was fair for me to talk about a contract. I actually went through the whole year without it. But it's not what you want to do. I just thought in my situation that I needed to get through the year.
"I just think that you get your job done during the summer. That's why I'm hoping that they can get it all signed up before the season starts because once the season starts, at least coaches -- and I guarantee Thibs is the same way -- we really want to focus on being a coach and just that. It's very difficult as a coach to tell guys to buy in and sacrifice and then they read about you everyday talking about a contract. It's not good form. It doesn't work well in my opinion. That's why I've always feel the management side has to have things done by the time the season starts."
Rivers and the Celtics eventually agreed to a five-year contract extension in May 2011.
Thibodeau, a career NBA assistant before landing the Bulls job, was associate head coach under Rivers in Boston from 2007-10.