While watching NBA teams on TV, viewers tend to hear the same sayings over and over again by coaches in timeout huddles. Phrases like “keep them off the glass”, “don’t be outhustled”, and “play smart” causes many viewers to question if it really takes much skill to be an NBA coach. With players like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony on teams it almost seems like the players do the coaching most of the time. But today in the NBA, there’s a lot that goes into coaching, and Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls embodies hard work and is without a doubt the best coach in the NBA today.
Thibodeau started out coaching in college at Salem State and quickly moved on to assistant coach at Harvard. He then moved on to the NBA and he moved around a lot, but he first started to get noticed when he was a key part to Jeff Van Gundy’s coaching staff with the New York Knicks in the 2000-2001 season. He was the big defensive mind of the coaching staff, and that Knicks team set an NBA record at the time for 33 consecutive games holding opponents under 100 points. After his tenure with the Knicks he switched over to the Celtics where he was the head assistant coach for Doc Rivers.
With the Celtics, Thibodeau, along with head coach Rivers, created a defensive juggernaut with Kevin Garnett at the helm. They led several defensive categories throughout Thibodeau’s stay and they won a championship in 2008. In those 2008 finals, the Celtics played Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, and Tom Thibodeau and Celtics put on a defensive masterpiece, locked down Kobe, and won the finals. That defensive prowess brought the Celtics back to the finals in 2010, but Kobe and Lakers got the best of them the second time around. At the end of that 2010 season, Thibodeau acquired his first NBA head coaching job with the Chicago Bulls. Thibodeau’s first season with the Bulls resulted in winning the Coach of the Year award and tying the NBA record for the most wins by a rookie coach with 62. In 2012 he became the fastest coach in NBA history to 100 wins. But what makes Thibodeau the best coach in the NBA is how he develops his players and how he handles the obstacles thrown in his way.
Tom Thibodeau has done an exceptional job with developing young talent. When Thibodeau came to the Bulls, he had a large amount of young talent in Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and new draftee Jimmy Butler. Thibodeau taught those players the value of hard work and defense and together they created a championship quality team. Taj Gibson is now a lethal offensive and defensive weapon and Jimmy Butler is one of the top guards in the league and is a steals machine. Just this year the Bulls drafted Tony Snell and Thibodeau already has him logging big minutes off the bench and Snell is performing on both ends of the court.
The Bulls have been hit with devastating injuries twice. First was Derrick Rose in the 2012 playoffs tearing his ACL against the 76ers. This horrific play was just crushing to the Bulls who fell from championship hopefuls to a team just trying to make the playoffs the next season. Many people didn’t think it would be possible to stay afloat without their MVP but Thibodeau rallied his players and they acquired the 5th seed in the playoffs the year following Rose’s injury. Then disaster struck again with Rose tearing his meniscus in Portland in 2013. No one thought the Bulls could survive another season and rumors of tanking started to surface. With the trade of star forward Luol Deng, it seemed to be a sure thing that the Bulls had given up on the season and the team was done for. But Tom Thibodeau did what he does best, and he fought through the obstacle, inspired his team yet again, and the Bulls are currently the 3 seed in the East. It is just incredible at how Thibodeau was able to give life to his team two seasons in a row to power through all the obstacles thrown in their path.
In today’s game, it seems like coaches are just trying to beat the basics into the heads of the players because there doesn’t seem like there is anything left to tell them or teach them. But Thibodeau is constantly working his players during games and his voice is almost gone after every game from shouting out defensive instructions throughout the game. Behind closed doors, coaches like Tom Thibodeau are instilling great work ethic and skills into young players and creating championship quality teams the old fashioned way. Thibodeau is working his players hard and he is making sure that they are the best conditioned, hardest workers, and best team out there night in and night out.