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Basketball Tue Jun 08 2010

Best Case, Worst Case for the Thibodeau Era

While it is not official, all signs point to the Bulls signing Boston Celtics and long-time NBA assistant coach Tom Thibodeau. After the NBA Finals come to a close the announcement will become official and Thibodeau will become the replacement for ousted former Bulls head man Vinny Del Negro.

Much has been speculated regarding what this impending hire means for the other storylines surrounding the Bulls: How does this affect the LeBron James to the Bulls scenarios? Did Thibodeau's signing with CAA Sports influence the decision? Will the Bulls ever look at a candidate with real NBA head coaching experience?

These stories will be covered ad naseam in the next few weeks and months. Instead of speculating about the back page news, why not look at how the Thibodeau Era might play out on the court?

The first aspect brought up in any conversation regarding Thibodeau is his defensive prowess. His current role in Boston has many times been referred to as a defensive coordinator. His defenses have finished in the Top 10 on 14 different occasions. There is no questioning his abilities to game plan a defense.

Where questions begin are with how Thibodeau will handle being a head coach, responsible for all aspects of the team. Not since he held the small role of Salem State College head coach has Thibodeau been in control of a team.

These points together, the lack of head coaching experience and the focus almost entirely on defense, form the main criticisms of the coming hire.

Fortunately for Bulls fans, these elements may become strengths moving forward. No one will be able to foresee whether Thibodeau will be a competent leader as head coach, but judging by the almost unanimous praise from former players and coaches he has as good a chance to succeed as any new coach.

Questions regarding his defensive approach may also be misguided. Thibodeau's most recent experience with the Boston Celtics should be viewed as an unqualified success. He was asked to take full control of an area of the game that Celtics head coach Doc Rivers could not fully develop. Thibodeau took his role as assistant coach and designed a defense that quickly became a dominant force in the league. It was the Boston defense that led them to the NBA title in 2008 and it is the defense again that has led them to the Finals this year.

Worst case scenario? The current Bulls players do not buy in to the defensive scheme, Thibodeau cracks under the pressure of a head coaching position in a major basketball town and the Bulls, once again, are forced to alter their long term plans.

Best case scenario? Thibodeau, a noted players coach, is embraced immediately by Bulls new and old, he convinces Derrick Rose that defense is an integral part of the game, Joakim Noah becomes the anchor of a dominant front court and Thibodeau proves that he should have been considered a viable option for many teams over the years.

Let's hope for the latter.
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Leisure / June 8, 2010 9:36 PM

The Bulls already had a top-10 defense, didn't they? The last guy, who also came in with no previous head coaching experience was not criticized for his defense. He couldn't get along with the lunatic in the front office. How is that going to change? Thibodeau doesn't have the personality to be the top dog and Garpax will clash quickly.

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