Where Does Tom Thibodeau Fit Among the Top 5 Chicago Bulls Coaches of All Time?
Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has only coached Derrick Rose and the Bulls for two seasons. However in that span, he has already led the NBA in wins two seasons in a row, made two playoff appearances, made an Eastern Conference Finals, won Coach of the Year and tied the record for most wins by a rookie coach with 62 wins. On top of that, there is absolutely an argument that he should have won Coach of the Year again last year.
With all of these accomplishments, we can begin to look at Thibodeau in the context of Chicago Bulls history. This run he has with the Bulls is already one of the top stretches in Bulls history, so where does Thibs stand among the top five coaches in Bulls history?
Honorable Mention: Johnny "Red" Kerr
1966-1968, First Chicago Bulls Head Coach, 1967 Coach of the Year, 62-101 Record, 1-7 Playoff Record
Red Kerr was the first coach in Chicago Bulls history, coaching them during their expansion season of 1966-67. In that season, the Bulls went 33-48 and became the first expansion team ever to qualify for the playoffs. Kerr was recognized as Coach of the Year that season.
The next season, Kerr was fired after the team's record was even worse than it was in his first year.
In the end, Kerr didn't really have that much success with the Bulls, but he is of course known as a legendary color commentator during the Bulls' title runs, and so I wanted to give him some credit.
5. Doug Collins
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1986-1989, 137-109 Record, 13-17 Playoff Record
One of the great unanswered Chicago Bulls questions is whether the Chicago Bulls would have won six titles if Doug Collins coached the team. Collins was coach of the Chicago Bulls during the late 1980s, during the rise of Jordan.
The Bulls went from a first-round out to an Eastern Conference Finals team under Collins. Could they have made the jump to a championship team under Collins? You have to imagine that Jordan could have gotten it done.
Ultimately, Collins only coached three seasons in Chicago before being replaced by Phil Jackson. Of course, the Bulls ultimately won six titles under Jackson, who is now considered the greatest coach ever. However we must remember that Collins helped Jordan and his teammates turn in the right direction.
It is telling that Michael Jordan hired Collins to coach his Wizards during his seasons there; he was obviously a fan of Collins.
4. Scott Skiles
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2003-2007, 165-172 Record, 10-12 Playoff Record
Scott Skiles entered the fray in 2003, during the worst stretch in the history of the Chicago Bulls by far. In the six seasons after Michael Jordan retired, the Bulls went 119-341. That's a 25.9 percent winning percentage which pro-rates out to a paltry 21 wins a season in an 82-game season.
In Skiles' first full season as head coach, the Bulls more than doubled their win total from the previous season, going from 23 wins to 47 wins. In addition, they made it to their first playoffs since the 1998 season with Michael Jordan.
Under Skiles, the Bulls made the playoffs for three straight seasons and even made a second round in 2007 after sweeping defending champion Miami in the first round. Unfortunately during the 2007-08 season, the Bulls regressed greatly, and Skiles was fired. However he will be remembered for turning around the ship.
3. Dick Motta
1968-1976, 1971 Coach of the Year, 356-300 Record, 18-29 Playoff Record
Dick Motta was the second coach in Chicago Bulls history, after Red Kerr. The 1970s Chicago Bulls were an interesting team under Motta. After missing the playoffs in his first season, the Bulls made the playoffs six straight times and made two Western Conference Finals.
The Motta Bulls were characterized by hard-nosed defense from the fearsome defensive backcourt of Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier. They also had a pair of 20-point per game scorers in Bob Love and Chet Walker.
The Motta Bulls never won a title and never felt particularly close, but they were the first taste of success in Bulls history, and many say that if this era never happened, the Bulls would have left Chicago.
2. Tom Thibodeau
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2010-Present, 2011 Coach of the Year, 112-36 Record, 11-11 Playoff Record
In only two NBA seasons, Tom Thibodeau has already become one of the top coaches in the NBA. In those two seasons, he finished with the top record in the NBA both times. He made the Eastern Conference Finals in his second season and undoubtedly would have led the Bulls down that path again if star point guard Derrick Rose didn't tear his ACL in the first game of the playoffs.
The Chicago Bulls under Thibodeau have consisted of one superstar, Derrick Rose, and players who effectively could have been called rejects. The team was assembled in the offseason of 2010, and the Bulls did not sign a single one of their top targets. Instead, they settled for a decent bench.
However Thibodeau managed to turn that group into a 62-win team. In Thibs' second season, he managed to turn that team into the top seed in the East despite Derrick Rose missing extended time due to injury. Even though he coached only two seasons, he is already the second best coach in franchise history.
The Bulls better sign him to an extension soon or he WILL be gone.
1. Phil Jackson
1989-1998, 1996 Coach of the Year, 545-193 Record, 111-41 Playoff Record, Six NBA Championships
I will keep this brief.
Jackson was coach for nine years. In that span, he made six NBA Finals. He won six titles. He coached the 72-win Chicago Bulls, the greatest team in NBA history. His Bulls PLAYOFF record pro-rates out to 60 wins a year.
And after the Bulls? He went to Los Angeles and won five more titles.
Jackson isn't just the greatest coach in Bulls history, but is also the greatest coach in NBA history. The fact that he won only one Coach of the Year award is a travesty. Tom Thibodeau has his work cut out for him if he wants to reach this guy.