Is Tom Thibodeau really that much of a taskmaster?

There have been concerns around Bulls nation that Tom Thibodeau will wear out on the players. He pushes them too hard, works them too hard, and the players will get sick of working for such a hard nosed coach. The theory has enough legs to it that management [despite look for these traits when hiring a coach] seems at least somewhat concerned about how long he can last in terms of burn out.

I'm not suggesting Tom Thibodeau doesn't work his guys hard. I'm sure he does. However, is there really any reason to believe he's so completely lacking in interpersonal skills that burn out is that big a factor? All of the evidence actually points the opposite way.

First, all of the players in Boston loved Thibodeau and spoke highly of him. Granted, his role as assistant coach is very different than his role as head coach. You don't see to many assistants having burnout players with players since they aren't controlling the length of practices or the minutes played, but it still showed he built up a great relationship with them.

Next, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver both noted on the way out the door that the chemistry on this Bulls team was special. Kyle Korver said it was the most dedicated team he'd ever been on in terms of working together towards a common goal. These are players who are no longer predisposed to say something nice about Chicago if they didn't feel it. They're gone. The guys on the team have consistently mirrored those thoughts during the past two seasons as well though.

Do you form that complete of a bond if the players and coach aren't on the same page? Thibodeau is the one setting that message, that goal, and getting those guys to work together. If he's successful enough on an interpersonal level to have the best chemistry several long term veterans have ever seen it seems like he's doing something right.

Finally, in the lockout shortened season last year, Thibodeau gave the Bulls the day off on virtually every day off during the season. He went out of his way to not overwork them in practice during the regular season. In his first season he also gave them key days off to rest and recover. Say what you want about how he rides guys in games, he appears to know when to take the foot off the pedal in practice.

In short, despite how wide spread this thought about Thibodeau is, I'm not sure there's all that much to support it. It certainly looks like Thibodeau is actually quite good at building up team chemistry, keeping his team focused on a goal, and working them hard without generating negative energy.

Filed under: Coaching


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  • Thibs is a top 5 Head Coach and Bulls are going to really regret not locking this guy up next season. He will get big money on the open market which means he will be leaving the cheap and incompetent Bulls org. Then we can go back to the Tim Floyd's and Vinnys of the NBA. Sigh...

  • In reply to Chad:

    If the Bulls organization is as "cheap and incompetent" as 99% of this blog believes them to be, why the hell would Thibs even want to sign an extension?? Why wouldn't he coach out the year and then sign with a competent organization that spends money like it's going out of style?

    If the Bulls truly care more about profits than championships, doesn't that mean that Thibs doesn't care about championships if he signs an extension?

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I have a feeling that Thibs is going to be a resident of the greater LA area within 2 years time.

  • In reply to Salvamini:

    NY or LA would probably dump their coaches in a second for Thibs. Money wouldn't be the issue for either team despite the Bulls being bigger earners. If they let him hit the open market he is gone.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    No coach is going to come out and say they are leaving after the season that would be insane. The only way you could keep a team loyal and cohesive is to pretend you want to resign but that management isn't offering you a fair deal.

    Either way I think he would prefer to stay but only if Bulls pay him like the top coach that he is (unlikely). Him and Rose seem tight and having a star can ensure solid seasons albeit if he wants to really contend for a championship he like Rose probably need to move on. If he resigns means he is loyal and hard headed enough to believe they could do it here. It's possible with a lot of luck. Just extremely unlikely with the types of teams Gar and Pax assemble IMO.

  • In reply to Chad:

    *meant before the season starts no coach would say he will be leaving leaving.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Is the MIA, OKC, LAL, or BOS job opening up next year?

    Because those would be the 'championship contending' teams.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I think that realistically most contributors to this blog understand that the front office has an obligation to run the organization with profits in mind. But the thing is, sport is an emotional thing. Fans put a lot of themselves into a team and sometimes it's hard to get excited about sound financial management.

  • despite his known flaws, coach Thib is a championship caliber leader. Do you really trust the Bulls to get a better alternative when the owner despises paying for top notch coaches? Coach Brooks got a 4 year 16 million dollar contract, if the Bulls are bulking on that, we're in trouble.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    I've heard that the Thibs wants quite a bit more than Brooks.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Thibs deserves more, because he's the better coach.

    If you want to use the argument Brooks got his team to the Finals, so HE'S better, then I guess having the talent of KD, RW, Harden, and Ibaka has nothing to do with it.

    Same goes with Spoelstra. I guess he too would have won a championship without Lebron, Wade, and Bosh.

    Rivers - $7mil
    D'antoni - $6mil
    Popp - $6mil
    McMillan - $5.5mil
    Adelman - $5mil
    Saunders - $4.8mil
    Carlisle - $4.5mil
    Brown - $4.5mil
    SVG - $4.5mil
    Skiles - $4.5mil

    Even if we took out the fired/resigned coaches, don't we think Thibs deserves to be in the Adelman $5mil range?

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    Rivers - 13 years as a head coach
    D'Antoni - 10
    Pop - 16
    McMillan - 10
    Adelman - 22
    Saunders - 16
    Carlisle - 11
    Brown - 6
    SVG - 8
    Skiles - 12

    Brooks - 4
    Spoelstra - 4
    Thibodeaux - 2

    You seeing a pattern yet?

    For the most part, coaches are paid based on years of head coaching experience.

    Yes, there are a few outliers of course- D'Antoni got overpaid by the Knicks (big surprise), and Adelman has lots of experience- but in 22 years, he's been to 2 NBA Finals, the last one being 20 years ago.

    “Look,” said Forman. “We want Tom to be the coach of the Bulls. Tom wants to be the coach of the Bulls. You have two sides with similar objectives. So you would think something is going to get done. You’ve got two sides wanting the same thing and Jerry (owner Reinsdorf) always has been fair.”

    Perhaps too fair in some cases, as when Vinny Del Negro asked for a two-year contract, Reinsdorf offered three. And when Scott Skiles was fired, he had an offset in his contract. That meant if he took another job, which he did in Milwaukee, he’d have to pay back the Bulls. The Bulls waived the offset so Skiles could collect his full salary from the Bucks, which is rarely done in the NBA. Plus, Phil Jackson worked off a series of contacts with the Bulls and Reinsdorf paid Tim Floyd his entire contract, more than two more years, even after he resigned.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I think reading this quote that Sam Smith has little to no understanding of what an offset clause is. As they fired Skiles, for example, they simply did what they were likely legally contractually obliged to do. I like Sam - in small doses - but that last paragraph is gibberish.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Doug, I listened to your podcast a few minutes ago. You couldn't be more right about Thibs. Why are we rolling the dice with this guy ? He needs to be locked up now. I feel that snubbing him now will bite us next June when he is being courted by these other teams who are willing to pay whatever it takes to win. How will Thibs respond when he is comparing ownership groups and front offices willing to do whatever it takes and spend whatever they need to do to compete versus us. This is a guy who waited over 21 yrs for his chance and turned down 2 more lucrative deals with New Orleans and New Jersey to be their head coach for chance to coach the Bulls before he even had a conversation with us. This guy is confident in himself. You think he's gonna lay down this year ? Thibs is gonna find a way to surprise a lot of people this year,probably win another coach of the year and the stakes will only get higher in the Thibodeau sweepstakes that will undoubtedly be too Rich for Jerry's blood. If DRose has as good of a relationship with Thibs as he says then he needs to storm Jerry's office and fight for his coach. That will be our only chance to bring Thibs back. If this goes into the season without a deal for Thibs I'm afraid our greatest fear will become a reality and our superstar coach will be heading for the bright lights of Hollywood or the Big Apple.

  • 5 years 25-30 million and worth every penny. If we don't do it, do we honestly think that a team on the verge of championship contention wont come next June ? Hand him a blank check Jerry and ask him nicely to be fair with you.

  • There really are only a handful of great coaches. I can think of two off the top of my head, that are still in the NBA. Thib's is one of them, so pay him $7 mil plus, seems fine to me.

  • This is so easy to fix.

    $2 million/year plus $1 million per playoff round victory. $2 million for winning the Finals.

  • In reply to Gringo Rican:

    Maybe Thibs learns to see the big picture if he gets paid for results that matter (i.e. deep playoff runs), and doesn't wear the guys down in the regular season. The Bulls pay him elite coach money when they get elite results. They don't have to be paranoid about a Skiles situation, because if he gets fired for burning the Bulls out, they only owe $2 mil per year for the remainder of his contract.

  • Let's face it! It's easy to be the Monday morning quarterback. It's easy to tell Thibs how to coach and it's easy to tell Jerry how to run his team. We know it all and with enough time can solve the worlds problems. The reality is this, in 23 years in the NBA Thibs has certainly paid his dues. If we don't secure him now do we really think he won't be in high demand once the season ends. Thibs will be the most sought after free agent in 2013. That's a fact....VDN was 82-82 and was scooped by the Clips. Thibs is 112-36. Even if we go 500 this year his record will still be a gaudy 153-77. He can be locked down by us now or we can find ourselves in a bidding war later. From what I sense from watching Thibs is this, although he is always politically correct if we mess with this Bull we can expect nothing less than to get the horns....

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