Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald writes: “In his first season as an NBA head coach, Thibodeau led the Bulls to the NBA’s best record at 62-20. That matched Paul Westphal (Phoenix, 1992-93) for the best record by a first-year coach. … He’s the Bulls’ fourth coach of the year, following Johnny “Red” Kerr (’67), Dick Motta (’71) and Phil Jackson (’96).”
And, as ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell and everybody in the Bulls organization points out, the honor was well-earned. Taking a team from 41 wins to 62 wins is a major accomplishment, especially considering the player turnover and the fact that Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah combined to miss 60 games.
Said Thibodeau: “I’m flattered, humbled and honored to receive this award, but I think it represents a lot more than just me. And it certainly reflects our team winning and our entire organization.”
Added Bulls GM Gar Forman: “When you look at the numbers this year, it’s easy to see the impact Tom made on this team. This team ended up No. 1 in defensive field-goal percentage, No. 1 in 3-point percentage, No. 1 in rebounding, No. 2 in point differential, No. 2 in points allowed and probably most importantly No. 1 in wins with 62. But to me, it’s about much more than that. It was everybody’s belief here from Jerry Reinsdorf to myself to John (Paxson) and even our players that in order for us to continue to build towards becoming a championship-caliber team that this team needed an identity and base to it. And we needed that base to be built on defense and rebounding. I know Tom felt the same way. What Tom was able to do was create a culture that was based on that.”
Forman really hit the nail on the head there. This season truly was about creating a culture as much as it was about the Xs and Os of basketball. Thibs has instilled so much into this particular Bulls team.
Attention to detail.
That’s not to say that some or most of the players didn’t already, at times, display those characteristics. But, this season at least, they did it with a night in, night out consistency that was sorely lacking during the Vinny Del Negro era. The Bulls brought all-out effort every night…in large part because Thibodeau demanded it.
Said Noah: “[I’m] very happy for him. Very well deserving. Coach is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around. He stays in late. He’s the first one here. He was here for me all summer, working me out, and I feel like I really improved as a player because of him in just one year. Very tough coach. And I’m happy for him.”
Added Luol Deng: “He’s a great coach on and off the court. Just the way we approach games, you can take that into everyday life. It’s about being a man and handling your responsibility. He holds you accountable. Becoming winners and winning 62 games, it became a habit. He brought it from Day One in training camp. We bought into it. He’s very demanding. But he’s right.”
On the surface, the way Thibs runs the team reminds me of the way Scott Skiles did during his tenure. However, based on comments made by some of the players on those teams, Skiles came off as a surly taskmaster. As hard as Thibodeau works this team — and he works them pretty darn hard — the players always talk about him with a respect that borders on genuine affection.
That bodes well for the future. With Skiles, the players got worn down and tuned him out. That may not happen with Thibs. It helps that the players — most notably Derrick Rose — buy into what Thibodeau is selling without any hesitation.
Anyway, congrats, Thibs. You earned it.