It shouldn't be news when an opposing team signs a head coach, but for all the drama and turmoil that surrounded Tom Thibodeau and his tenure in Chicago, it would be remiss of Bulls Confidential to refrain from focusing on the topic of the day.
Finalizing a five-year, $40 million deal that will see Thibodeau become both the president of basketball operations and head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the growth and improvement of the Minnesota Timberwolves will now be expedited under the tutelage of Thibodeau. Already armed with the best young talent in the game and a surrounding core already established by the late Flip Saunders, Thibodeau will now have the ability to add and build atop of Saunders' vision with his expanded role as a team executive.
Joining a team full of young talent that projects to be one of the best and most exciting team's in the league, the great irony in Thibodeau’s appointment is his old team, the Chicago Bulls, have declined into a rabble of uncertainty that mirrors past incarnations of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Ousted from his role as head coach, the arrival of Fred Hoiberg as Thibodeau’s successor was to be the beginning of a resurgence for the Bulls. Time has allowed reality to sink in, and such a notion looks laughable in retrospect.
Hoiberg had a troubling initiation into the NBA, disappointing in his rookie season as coach. Destined to face heavy and unfair comparisons to Thibodeau, a lack of support and vision from Chicago’s management all but assured a tumultuous start to Hoiberg’s NBA coaching career. The young talent which Gar Forman invested so heavily in – which Thibodeau had trouble integrating into his rotation – have yet to develop as expected.
Compounding this reality has been the steep decline of the veteran presence within the locker room. Pau Gasol would preach accountability, but would fail to live up to his own words. Demoted to the bench, Joakim Noah saw his role as the team leader diminish, being usurped by Jimmy Butler’s rising ego, which created an inner turmoil which Hoiberg couldn’t control. Dysfunction thrived as harmony died.
Making matters worse is the uncertain path of the franchise’s roster build moving forward, with the future of the team’s best player, Jimmy Butler, up in the air.
The same can’t be said of Minnesota.
Karl-Anthony Towns, the 2015 1st overall pick, recently completed an incredible rookie season that will see him comfortably win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. Last year’s winner, Andrew Wiggins, has developed into a 20 point scorer, and with his physical tools, can develop into the perimeter defender that Thibodeau leaned so heavily on in Chicago with Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler.
If those building blocks weren’t enough, Ricky Rubio is the perfect point guard to initiate both the offensive and defensive philosophies that will be barked vigorously from the new coach, while Zach Lavine and Gorgui Dieng – both of whom hail from the same draft as Doug McDermott and Tony Snell – round out a starting unit that can grow together for seasons to come.
With so much offensive talent and potential at his disposal, Thibodeau will have the offensive talent he was never afforded in Chicago while being able to mould the young and athletic Wolves into a defensive juggernaut.
Oh, and did I mention Kevin Garnett, who rejoins forces with Thibs from their days in Boston, will continue to instill his invaluable mentorship to another potential top-5 pick and over $30 million in cap space?
So much promise exists for a franchise that has had to endure so much, and Thibodeau has every chance to be the mastermind dictating the development of potential to greatness. He’s been cast into his dream job, and frankly, he deserves it.
His signing with the Timberwolves means that the Bulls will no longer be required to pay the remaining salary on Thibodeau's contract. *Queue Reinsdorf doing the Birdman handrub* Hopefully, this means the Bulls franchise can exorcise the demon's left from the breakup that haunted the team throughout the year.
Both the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves at the crossroads, but only one organization is headed down a path of championship success, being led by a man destined to have the last laugh.