5 Things Chicago Bulls Fans and Players Love About Tom Thibodeau
Fans have magnetized to tales of his 18 hour days, a perfect symbol of the workaholic nature he’s impressed upon his relentless team.
Chicagoans fancy themselves blue-collar and endurant—their spirit unbreakable even under the duress of horrible winters and multiple season-ending injuries to former MVP Derrick Rose—so Thibodeau’s success pushing this team consistently beyond expectations has inspired them.
We love his ceaseless work ethic.
What else is there to love about Thibodeau?
His Belief in His Players
Derrick Rose is only the biggest name in a long list of those who’ve had untimely injuries for the Bulls. Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, for instance, both missed the entirety of the team’s second-round series with the Miami Heat in last year’s playoffs.
But Thibodeau never lets an injury derail his team. He always believes that the men filling up the rest of his roster have the skills necessary to get the job done.
Thibodeau’s “next man up” line has become tiresome to the Chicago media, but he couldn’t care less about that. More important to him is that his players hear him say it, and grow more confident in themselves as a result.
D.J. Augustin’s resurgence this year is part of a surprisingly long history of point guard rehabilitation in the Thibodeau era. John Lucas III, C.J. Watson and Nate Robinson have all re-made their careers on the wave of Thibodeau’s positivity.
The very little life Tom Thibodeau lives outside the parameters of basketball is mysterious to most. From Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune:
Of course Tom Thibodeau has hobbies. Don't be silly.
"Some rare stamps," he said after a recent Bulls practice. "Oil paintings. And listening to Mozart."
Don't forget acting. Thibodeau rattled those off with a straight face.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman remembers being in a group where Thibodeau, pressed for evidence that his existence does not revolve around a spinning basketball, "went into a little bit of detail about his rare stamp collection. We all laughed. I've yet to see it."
Does Thibodeau have a life outside of basketball? That’s anyone’s guess. But he’s only giving us red herrings any time he’s asked about it, clearly leading the curious astray in the attempt to find out who he is.
This breeds questions evermore about Thibodeau. If he allowed himself to be biographized more thoroughly, nearly every NBA reporter would knock down his door to do the job.
His Sense of Humor
Thibodeau may be reticent to reveal anything about his personal life, but he does occasionally show us that those around him aren’t short on laughter.
The intense, smoldering former Coach of the Year actually shows a warm side of himself if you're looking hard enough.
In the above exchange, Thibodeau tickles a referee with levity. But it's not exactly rare for him to do so. Just listen any time he's on the radio with Chicago regulars, and you'll see that he's also able to get them laughing at the drop of a hat.
"Hilarious" might not be the first adjective you think of when you see Tom Thibodeau. But like Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs—one of the most quotable coaches in the league—Thibodeau is more the comedian every day he gets more comfortable in his role as head coach.
Don't hold your breath for a stand-up special, but also don't be surprised by a more meme-worthy, comical Thibodeau when he rises.
Regarding the Bulls’ overtime takedown of the reigning champion Heat on March 9, Joakim Noah saw things pretty simply.
"I think the team with the better edge won,’' he told the Chicago Tribune.
Noah himself is quite the leader—and emerging as a dark horse MVP candidate—but make no mistake: the Bulls’ edge comes from Thibodeau. He refuses to give weight to doubters, or invest too much in any number of statistical categories his team falters in.
Thibodeau believes in the unquantifiable; in "heart, hustle and muscle," as Bulls announcer Stacey King would have it. These components are the backbone of hope, and it's Thibodeau's insistence in each that mobilizes his team above all, and gives them their distinctly pounding prowess.
His Refusal to Lose
A number of NBA teams have decided—it seems—that their long-term view is improved by losing, rather than winning. Proud coaches are forced the swallow this rough pill; Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics, Brett Brown with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Thibodeau will never accept such a circumstance. When the Bulls traded away Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was assumed by many that John Paxson and Gar Forman of the team's front office were giving away the season in order to move up in one of the most hyped draft classes of the modern NBA.
The Bulls, however, have only grown stronger since losing their "glue guy," Deng, racing to an impressive 22-9 record as Augustin, Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson have all stepped up tremendously.
Thibodeau wouldn't have it any other way. He forces you to clear a high bar, and that's what makes him one of the most valuable assets in the entire league.