Chicago Bulls: Tom Thibodeau Contract Extension Is Late but Better Than Never

Kelly ScalettaFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 06: Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls reacts during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 6, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers won 89-82 to go up 3-1 in the series. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

There was doubtless a near unanimous sentiment when the Chicago Bulls announced on October 1st that Tom Thibodeau's contract had been extended another four years. That sentiment, edited for public consumption, is "It's about time." 

Of course in practice, other words may have been interspersed in that phrase. 

Few decisions in the history of the NBA have been easier than whether to extend Tom Thibodeau's contract, and that is literally the case. I mean that in the true sense of the word literally, as in, I'm being literal, not metaphorical, when I say it. 

Why? Because no coach in the history of the NBA has ever led the league in wins his first two years as a head coach until now. No coach has ever achieved 100 wins faster than Tom Thibodeau. 

Ergo, in the great annals of whether to sign a head coach or not, this one is the easiest decision ever, since no coach has ever earned the right to his contract more. 

It's not just because he's had the players to do it, either.

In fact, when this group was first assembled after the Bulls failed in their quest to land LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, most analysts looked at this group and pegged them for a fourth or fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. 

Thibodeau won the most games with what was, for the most part, a team that had depth, but not the top shelf talent that other teams had. The exception was Derrick Rose, who had the same sentiment as that speculated above, according to ESPN Chicago.

"It's great," Derrick Rose said. "I'm glad he finally got the deal done. He's a guy we need around this organization."

Derrick Rose was a huge part of why the Bulls won, but last year, even when he went down with injury, the Bulls still went 18-9. 

Thibodeau is a remarkable coach who has navigated a series of injuries over the course of his two years. The Bulls have played 148 games in the last two seasons. Of those games, the Bulls have had their full starting lineup for a grand total of 44 of them.

That's less than 30 percent of all their games over two seasons with their starting lineup. 

Ironically, the only starter that never missed a game over that stretch was the weakest, Keith Bogans. Of the remaining players, Joakim Noah missed 36 games, Rose missed 28 total games, as did Richard Hamilton.  Carlos Boozer missed 23. Luol Deng missed 12. 

All told, that's a grand sum of 127 starts missed due to injury in the two seasons combined. For those who are observant, those 127 missed starts came in 104 games. That's because the Bulls were without two starters in 23 games, and they went 18-5 when they were without more than one starter. 

If there has ever been an argument for good coaching, it's going 18-5 when you're missing two or more starters (and for the record, the "or more" part is 2-0 when missing three starters). 

Looking at every team that has won the regular season in back-to-back championships, I could not find a single team which had ever repeated with more injuries. Ever. 

So that brings us back to the argument—this might very well be the best opening two-year campaign in the annals of the game. 

Yes, the Bulls have depth, but, "next man up" became a punchline last season. And the crazy thing is, the next man kept stepping up. 

How good of a coach is Tom Thibodeau? John Lucas III took down LeBron James and the Miami Heat. That's how good of a coach he is.

If there is a better inaugural two-year résumé in the history of the league, where is it? So what, in the wide, wide world of sports took so long?

Thibodeau will have his toughest season yet with a new bench coming in to replace a significant chunk of the old one and Derrick Rose missing the bulk of the season. Don't be surprised when the Bulls surprise. 

Thibodeau is just a special coach. Look for the Bulls to compete with the Pacers for the Central Division title in spite of the challenges. That's just another obstacle for Thibodeau to overcome.