Tim Thibodeau’s 2014 coaching season can be summed up in five words uttered by Ivan Drago in Rocky IV:
“If he dies, he dies.”
Thibodeau’s constant push for more effort, more intensity and more wins from his roster finally reached a kind of breaking point with many fans, though his players never wavered in public.
Record: 48-34 (2nd in Central Division, 4th in Eastern Conference)
Offensive Rating: 102.5 (League Rank: 28th)
Defensive Rating: 100.5 (Lg Rank: 2nd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: 47.1% (Lg Rank: 30th)
Tom Thibodeau must be credited with redesigning his team’s entire offensive game plan at a moment’s notice when Derrick Rose was lost for the season in mid-November.
After Rose tore his ACL at the end of the 2012 season, Thibodeau had a long summer to craft his offense and ask the front office to find players to help.
This time round, there was no chance to retool with shot-creating players. The Bulls had gone all-in on a core featuring Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
There were utterly awful offensive nights and yes, the tema ranked right at the bottom of most major statistical categories, but when the focal point of your offense is your center with the weird shooting motion and a few perimeter threats, these results are expected.
Thibodeau also rode out the trade of his on-court manifestation. Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland to save money for a team that, at the time, had not fully recovered from the traumatic loss of Rose once again.
The defense was still it’s stifling, physical best. Thibodeau has quickly become one of the most respected coaches in the league for his ability to junk up any team’s best-laid offensive schemes.
With Joakim Noah taking another leap forward and earning Defensive Player of the Year honors and Taj Gibson developing into one of the top two-way big men in the league, the Bulls frontcourt was a fearsome prospect once more.
With the good must come the bad and with Tom Thibodeau the bad largely focuses on his penchant for trying to grind his players into dust.
Jimmy Butler bore the brunt of the minutes-load this season, especially after the Deng trade. Joakim Noah and Mike Dunleavy also found the bench sparingly, though Dunleavy increasingly became a feast or famine player, appearing for long stretches or riding the pine for long spells.
Thibodeau’s desire to grind out every last ounce of performance from his team in the regular season is what allows this Bulls squad to garner praise for it’s brand of basketball.
The Bulls landed the Washington Wizards in the playoffs and from the opening tip it was evident the Wizards had stumbled across the right blend of youthful experience, veteran presence and sheer confidence to dispose of the Bulls in five painful games.
Turning the dial up to 11 all season again appeared to leave the Bulls sorely lacking a higher speed in the postseason when other teams ramp up their intensity.
His methods also brought 48 wins to a team lacking in any offensive creators. Do the ends justify the means?
The future is up in the air until the Bulls and Thibodeau jointly announce a long-term agreement.
It is no secret that the coach and his front office do not see eye-to-eye on some issues and trading Luol Deng can’t have done much to endear them to their former Coach of the Year.
There was speculation Thibodeau would be coaching the New York Knicks next season. The Los Angeles Lakers were also mentioned in some rumor columns. The latest flavor of the month seems to be the Memphis Grizzlies, this despite having hired current head coach Dave Joerger less than twelve months ago.
Ultimately, both his departure and signing a new contract are feasible, expect the whispers and rumors to continue unabated until pen is put to paper.