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Tom Thibodeau is the fastest coach in NBA history to 100 wins and the only one ever to lead the league in victories his first two years. He also owns the highest winning percentage of any current head coach.
His defensive schemes have been so effective that they’ve changed the NBA. Teams have copied Thibodeau’s principles, and that is forcing offenses to change. (For an outstanding piece detailing just how and why that is, see Zach Lowe of Grantland’s piece here.)
Perhaps the most impressive coaching job by Thibodeau came when he had his lowest winning percentage just last season. The Chicago Bulls, with a roster composed primarily of castoffs, miscreants and late-round picks, managed to “bull'’ their way to the Eastern Conference’s fifth-best record.
Then, with Nate Robinson throwing up on the sidelines, Luol Deng warding off the Grim Reaper and Joakim Noah hobbling around on two bad feet, all amid the din and distraction of Derrick Rose not #returning, the Bulls not only beat the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, but even shocked the Miami Heat to steal Game 1 of the second.
This has become Thibodeau’s resume as a coach. He makes players better, and he makes the teams he coaches greater than the sum of their parts. It’s what led Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski to say, “Thibodeau is the rarest commodity in the NBA: an indisputable difference-maker on the bench.”
Derrick Rose went from a rising star to an MVP under Thibodeau. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah have become All-Stars. Jimmy Butler has become one of the biggest draft-day steals in recent memory. Omer Asik, a second-round pick, became a legitimate starting center. There’s no questioning Thibodeau’s player development.
For a while, there was speculation that his yelling would eventually get under his team’s skin. That has not proven to be the case. While he is constantly screaming (perhaps even when he’s alone in the shower), he also has a proven rapport with his team.
Players know Thibodeau always has their backs, regardless of the situation. Even when fans and media have practically begged him to throw a player under the bus (e.g. Carlos Boozer at any given moment), he doesn’t do it.
One question mark with Thibodeau is managing minutes. While some of the complaints are overblown (for instance, Luol Deng’s spinal tap complications are probably not all that relevant to his playing time) others are more realistic. Noah’s history of plantar fasciitis should have kept his playing time down.
If Thibodeau ever gets a healthy team in the playoffs, watch out.
He's someone who loves the game as much as me. And that's pretty hard. You love basketball more than I do, I have to take my hat off to you." Derrick Rose on Tom Thibodeau, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.