Team USA Basketball: Why Tom Thibodeau Would Be a Great Hire as an Assistant

Charles BennettSenior Analyst IMay 22, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 27: Tom Thibodeau head coach of the Chicago Bulls during a game against the Miami Heat on March 27, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. 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 David Banks/Getty Images)
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It is being reported by ESPN that Mike Krzyzewski has signed on to coach Team USA for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Already, speculation is arising as to whom Coach K will choose to be on his coaching staff.

The New York Post is reporting that Jim Boeheim is in as an assistant for 2016, but Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni is out. That leaves at least one opening on Coach K’s squad.

That opening should be filled by Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. And there are a lot of reasons why.

Perhaps the most obvious is that Thibs is a pretty decent head coach. He was named Coach of the Year in his first season and was runner-up in his second. With a career winning percentage of 68 percent, he recorded 100 wins even faster than former Bulls coach Phil Jackson.

But a better reason is that Thibs is a career assistant. Prior to the Bulls job, Thibs had been an assistant in the NBA for 20 seasons, most under Doc Rivers, Jeff Van Gundy and John Lucas. He was Doc Rivers’ associate coach when the Celtics won their most recent title, and also was on Van Gundy's Knicks for their 1999 Finals run.

Another reason Team USA needs Thibodeau is that he is arguably the best coach of defense still in the game. Teams where Thibodeau was a head or assistant coach nearly always have finished in the upper echelons of points allowed, field-goal percentage allowed, turnovers forced and defensive rebounds.

Thibodeau has been responsible for the development of a number of the NBA’s great defensive players, including David Robinson, Dennis Rodman, Kevin Garnett, Marcus Camby and Joakim Noah.

Finally, it usually helps for a Team USA coach to have a little international experience, either playing internationally, coaching internationally or scouting international players.  

While Thibs doesn’t have the international experience of a D’Antoni, or even of Gregg Popovich, it’s worth noting that his primary scorer (Luol Deng) plays internationally for Great Britain, and his primary defender (Joakim Noah) plays internationally for France. Two more of his players (Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer) have played internationally for Team USA.

Bottom line: to replace Mike D’Antoni as an assistant, Coach K should look no farther than Tom Thibodeau.