Thibs the Teacher

Thibs the Teacher

Sam Smith's excellent article reflects what should make Bulls fans excited about new Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau -- that he isn't a hopeless romantic, fixated on himself, but a committed coach with an adept understanding of the game and the league.

Columnists like falling in love with fairy tales. The storylines they say are under the surface, though the media -- as the intellectual class of society -- shapes the surface of narrative.

Rick Morrissey was aggravated that Sam Smith is fixated on talking basketball with Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, Smith wrote yesterday at

Morrissey is so fixated on himself that he's so much more interested in being the columnist who writes the meaningless poetry than being an informant to the public behind the scenes of what's become an extremely entertaining basketball team where it matters most.

Smith's article emphasizes how refreshing it is to watch a basketball team coached not by Scott Skiles, who's so fixated on what he wants his team to be that he's divorced from the reality of what the game of basketball in this league actually is. Not by Vinny Del Negro who never really had a clue of what it takes to consistently beat basketball teams worse than or on the same level.

The 2010-11 are a young team and the league is ever-changing. Fortunately, the Bulls have a coach who is an ardent student of the game, committed to relaying the lessons he's learned and his deconstruction of the competition to his players, while sensitive to his audience (for lack of better words):

No doubt Thibodeau, who played and began his coaching career at
Division III Salem State College, will express gratitude for the
opportunities that New York and Boston gave him to be where he is now.

But what the Bulls have as their new coach is a pragmatic, secular,
scientific thinker who is more conversational and down to earth than
advertised, but bereft of the pompous dramatics.

No, not a sentimentalist, but a true professional coach.


Thibodeau was much advertised as this intense workaholic, but he hasn't really driven the players that hard.

The Bulls had another day off Tuesday, and it hasn't been anything
like the Pat Riley practice death marches
that are so notorious. There
are demands in practice, but more like Jerry Sloan's style in getting
your work done
than punishing you because the coach works so hard.


But while Thibodeau is up all game, he's not shouting or screaming at
the players. Instead, he is still instructing as he is more at the core
a teacher. Perhaps the most embarrassing thing for NBA coaches is those
live lookins on national TV where they are addressing the players and
generally say something like, "Get a stop," or "We need a turnover."

I believe in the Bulls huddles the players are being told how to get a
turnover or a stop
. It's actually one of the differences I often find
between former players who become coaches without much coaching
experience and journeyman coaches. There's this notion because a guy has
played he knows the game. Sure, plenty do. But they don't necessarily
know how to coach the game. They generally have played because of their
athletic talent, which doesn't mean they know how to break down an
offense or defense or have a plan. Or to teach.


Though I don't get to watch practices, I've heard that Thibodeau
isn't the screamer type. What's most unusual about his methods is his
hands on approach, more than any coach I've ever heard of, which may not
be perfect.


Thibodeau, from what I have heard, will stop a practice to explain
something to a player, but then move on without making it a major issue
or appearing to single out the player for an error. It's a method that
seems to have been accepted.

He seems demanding without being obnoxious.

Thibodeau worked one on one with Noah all summer, which also is rare
for a head coach, and both Noah and Rose joked good naturedly about his
workaholic nature

Noah joked that sometimes he'd try to sneak out of the Berto Center
if he was tired, but Thibodeau would catch him and always have something
to work on. Rose laughed when he said he developed a plan to have
friends call and say he had an appointment to get a break from some
Thibodeau workouts.

But it seemed said mostly in fun, certainly for now, and the players seem to have bought in to what Thibodeau has been selling.

What is generally unrecognized about players is they want to get
better. They may not quote many literary classics, but they know quickly
if you are trying to fool them

They also know fairly quickly if you can help them.


Good defense requires hard work and the Bulls have done so. They have
been particularly active, helping and then recovering, which requires a
lot of effort. Thibodeau also requires different theories of coverage
depending on the position you are playing, and the players seemed to
have welcomed it.

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