I believe I've waited enough out of fear of this post becoming as useless as 2008's "Welcome back Doug Collins" one. It's looking like at the end of the Finals the Bulls will officially have their new coach in Celtics Assistant Coach Tom Thibodeau.
It's definitely an exciting move compared to the other names we had heard were on the Bulls leaderboard. While we can't know if the risks involved with Thibodeau being a first-time head coach outweighs the implied ceiling of the experienced candidates (who, as nearly all coaches have before, failed and been fired eventually), the potential in this hire makes things at least more interesting than Lawrence Frank, Byron Scott, and the like.
And the more you read about the guy, the interest increases. This portrait of a bright, workaholic teacher and taskmaster is hard to not be impressed by. The numbers of defenses he's helmed are consistently near the top of the league. His colleagues and pupils alike have provided glowing remarks of his candidacy over the past week, which resonates more than what Vinny Del Negro had coming in, which was basically a selling job that duped Bulls management.
Not that Vinny didn't dupe me as well. He certainly said the right things in his opening press conference (amongst the cliche's that proved to be not so much opening day jitters as his entire vocabulary), but it was barely half a season when things turned. But while they may be similar in never having been head coach of an NBA team before, Thibodeau isn't Vinny Del Novice in terms of other types of experience.
But it is still a risk, one I thought they were going to avoid, and one I would've avoided (even if it was for a lower-ceiling hire). We don't know for certain if Thibodeau simply doesn't have all the tools to move up to the head chair. No evidence of an implemented offensive system, and it'll still be a new frontier on a personality level: from managing rotations, to how he speaks about players in the media, to the locker room politicking. And he's yet to even make his first mistake, let alone learn from it. And while he's accumulated a lot of assistant coaching experience, that also means he's spent a lot of time not being hired for this job in the past, a red flag in and of itself.
But my impression (based on others), is that at the very least he knows was he's doing, he's diligent, and he'll prepare. He'll have a plan and a system that he believes in. Getting it to work is a different challenge, but he's as ready as he'll ever be.
But no doubt the Bulls believed in Vinny once too, so their judgement in any hire deserves to be looked on skeptically. But I'll give them credit, once they decided they wanted Thibodeau, they got him. Sure, they had a sort of weird way to go about it, and there's a lot of indications that this was Reinsdorf-driven (after with all that Gar talk at the press conference!), but they ultimately found someone and landed him, which is not how the last coaching search ended. Hopefully the next coaching tenure goes differently too.
Some more random-er thoughts....
- In every Thibodeau piece, you get the lauding comments from Jeff Van Gundy. And taking such stake in those comments was satisfying in speculatively evaluating Thibodeau, but it also had me thinking why not just hire...Jeff Van Gundy? I know he seemingly wasn't ever interested in any job, but if the Bulls were more big-time and spent time pursuing the guy (and paying up) instead of subtly admonishing him about his comments in the Pax-VDN shovey thing, I'd at least consider it an effort.
- Speaking of, that whole incident (and the handling of Vinny in general) didn't seem to effect the search or Thibodeau's preferences in the least. I suppose Rose+Noah really does trump most Org. nonsense, and I hope that continues with the FA courting. I don't think the Thibodeau-CAA-LeBron/Bosh connection is that important, but I don't think Thibodeau's hiring hurts either. If anything it's a bit more hype (if only a that, 'a bit') on the Bulls direction, the guy who 'stopped' LeBron without a track record to pick apart.
- The terms of the deal were roughly $6.5m over 2 guaranteed years with a team option for the 3rd. More money, but actually less security, than what Vinny received. So the Bulls have managed some risk-aversion there.
- The news on the assistant coaching staff is very interesting as well. The Dwyer link above mentions how well Ron Adams did in his last stint here (Noah incident notwithstanding), and Daily Thunder feels like the loss of Adams and Maurice Cheeks is a huge one if it does indeed happen. Cheeks would bring yet another 'old guard to help Derrick Rose' dynamic to join in with Pete Myers, Randy Brown, Lindsey Hunter, and Kirk Hinrich. Cheeks also seems like the perfect 'good cop' for the players.