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Jeff Van Gundy: No NBA coach does better with his team than Tom Thibodeau with Bulls

Feb 11, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT

Tom Thibodeau, Mike Dunleavy

Say whatever else you want about him, but Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls have never underachieved during the regular season.

Thibodeau took over a .500 team and turned it into a 62-win squad his first year. The next season, the lockout-shortened 2011-12, Chicago was even better, going 50-16. With Derrick Rose out all of last year, the Bulls went 45-37. This season, with Rose out again and Luol Deng traded, Chicago is 25-25.

The Bulls play hard and defend physically, winning with a style that clearly stems from their head coach.

Jeff Van Gundy, as transcribed by ESPN Chicago:

“There’s nobody that does a better job with his team in the whole league,” Van Gundy said Monday on The Carmen & Jurko Show on ESPN Chicago 1000. “I would suspect that he would be back for a long time. I know he loves the city, he loves his team, you can tell. Everything I’ve ever heard about Jerry Reinsdorf as an owner is that he’s a man’s man. I’m pretty good friends with [former Bulls coach] Tim Floyd, and Tim Floyd raves about him as does Tom.

“I would suspect if [general manager] Gar Forman or [executive vice president] John Paxson have an issue with Tom, what it could be I don’t know, but if they do, they should try to get it resolved in a positive manner because Tom’s an exceptional talent, and one of the reasons the Bulls have been so good and so overachieving since he’s been there is because of his great work. I hope it works out because it’s a great place and it’s a great basketball city.”

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Coaches loves coaches, and coaches praise coaches, because coaches and want to see coaches get better job security, because coaches believe coaches are very valuable.

Not even a couple months ago, Van Gundy said it’d be ‘ludicrous’ for the Knicks to fire Mike Woodson. A couple weeks ago, Doc Rivers said it would be ‘nuts’ for the Bulls to let Thibodeau leave.

Van Gundy and Rivers both worked with Thibodeau, so they’re even more biased than usual.

No matter how great a coach Thibodeau is – and I believe, if he’s not the NBA’s best, he makes the short list – he doesn’t always get along with Chicago’s front office. That could make a continued partnership between both sides unhelpful for either.

Bulls management should take steps to resolve any rift with Thibodeau, and maybe it has. As Van Gundy and Rivers will tell you, Thibodeau is worth the trouble.

  1. sportsfan18 - Feb 11, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    Thibs should be and should have been coach of the year already…

    • romestar82 - Feb 11, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      yeah right! So he can get fire the following off-season?
      Every COY get’s fire the next year

  2. aboogy123456 - Feb 11, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    I always hear that Thibodeau is so great because he gets so much out of so little talent. They don’t have Rose but this team does have a good amount of talent on it. Noah is arguably the best defender in the game, and he does a great job making his team better. Taj Gibson looks like he’s close to all-star level, and boozer as much as we all hate him is still a guy that can score 15 a game.

    Thibodeau understands defense but his players are for the most part really good individual defenders, like jimmy butler. Thibs is no where near popovich’s level and he doesn’t understand how to pace his team over an 82 game season yet, and I think it’s offensive to guys like noah to say the bulls have little talent.

    • unxpexted1 - Feb 11, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      I do agree with that to some extent. But him and popovich have been able to do the same things just on different sides of the ball. Each has had to deal with significant injuiries, and whether its the type of players, system or what, each coach has found a way to get the most of their talent when they aren’t at full strenth. Both have done a remarkable job at that. I mean seriously when Deng got traded I thought it was a wrap city for the Bulls but it hasn’t been.

    • borderline1988 - Feb 11, 2014 at 6:14 PM

      This team does not have nearly as much talent on it as you say it does. Boozer is a crappy defender, and 15 ppg is not nearly good enough if that’s your best offensive player. Gibson is a heart-and-soul player, but he’s a bench player, not a legit starter on a playoff team.

      Look at the Knicks…Tyson Chandler is every bit the defender that Noah is, and the Knicks also has an excellent perimeter defender in Shumpert. Felton is a decent defender as well. Ron Artest is also on that team. But the Knicks don’t play defense like the Bulls, why do you think that is?

      Thibodeau is by far and away the best defensive coach in the NBA. His offensive acumen is more questionable, although to his credit, he’s never had the offensive weapons that, for example, the Spurs have. I’m not questioning Poppovich at all, but he has 3 guys that can create and score efficiently on their own, arguably more. Thibodeau has none (maybe Boozer, but he’s not as good as the Big 3 on SA). Remember last year vs the Heat, Parker just shredded the defense in the first few games, and all he was doing was taking his man one-on-one at the top of the key. That’s a nice thing to have as a coach.

      To me, Poppovich and THibodeau are on a level of their own in terms of coaches (actually, Stan van Gundy would be on that list if he was coaching).

    • blueintown - Feb 12, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      It’s not offensive to guys like Noah to say the Bulls have little talent, because Noah himself has little talent. He busts his hind parts and fights like hell, but to even put him in the conversation of best defender in the game is beyond logic. He’s simply not the skilled athlete that some of these guys are. And just watch what happens when he gets matched up against an elite big (like Anthony Davis the other night or Demarcus Cousins a couple nights prior). It’s atrocious.

  3. eugenesaxe1 - Feb 11, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    So with a healthy Rose, he’s taken the team as far as they were expected to go. Without Rose, they’re .500. Yay.
    Portland was considered a borderline-playoff team this year. They currently have the 5th-best record in the league. PHO was supposed to be a bottom-feeder this year. As of now they’re the #6 seed. Both teams play in the Bestern Conference. CHI plays in the E-League.
    I dare say you’re wrong

    • unxpexted1 - Feb 11, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Yea i think i would give it to Hornacek at the moment

      • eugenesaxe1 - Feb 11, 2014 at 5:10 PM

        I’m from Portland so I’m a bit biased, but I wouldn’t argue against Hornacek, except for Stotts. Depends how everyone finishes the season.

    • abchome - Feb 12, 2014 at 7:44 AM

      Portland had all starters available every game, but was quite pedestrian (12-11) after a hot start (24-5).

      • eugenesaxe1 - Feb 12, 2014 at 11:55 PM

        “after a hot start (24-5).”

        Sorry, but those games count too. And they’ve split season series with OKC and IND. And they’re still a top-5 team.

  4. azmello - Feb 11, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    He was COY in 2011.

  5. antistratfordian - Feb 11, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    Thibs was a J. Van Gundy assistant in New York and Houston. Jeff Van Gundy is expected to have a high opinion of the Jeff Van Gundy coaching tree.

  6. davidly - Feb 11, 2014 at 5:36 PM

    The first time I read the names Tim Floyd and Jerry Reinsdorf in the same block of print, the other Jerry was fixing to show arguably the greatest coach of all time the door after he’d just won 62 games and the franchise’s sixth title. We all know how that worked out.

  7. dinofrank60 - Feb 11, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    JVG probably likes the Bulls better without Rose, because of their hard work, sacrifice, no excuses, overachieving style that plays well during the regular season and is the type of team he loves. You know, the ‘I can take 12 guys who are willing to do the non-star things in order for us to win in this star-bloated league’ chant. The spiel that gets them stuck in the Eastern Conference.

    You can bet Thibs would like to have Rose and Deng during the playoffs. He’s got fine players, he just doesn’t have enough of them.

  8. chicagosports2014 - Feb 11, 2014 at 8:24 PM

    Thibs will retire a BULL.

  9. floridascuba1 - Feb 11, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    He is a dirty coach.

    • maracineanu16 - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:19 AM

      and what makes you say that?

    • unxpexted1 - Feb 12, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      he doesn’t look like he showers

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