Way back in 2008, the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks made a push to hire Mike D’Antoni. You know how that turned out — D’Antoni went to the Knicks, while VDN ended up in Chicago, where he led the team to an 82-82 record in two seasons because Del Negro is the perfect middle of the road coach. After his second season and an actual fistfight with John Paxson, Del Negro was out, paving the way for the Bulls to make a run at then-Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau.
But the Bulls weren’t the only team chasing Thibodeau. He was the architect of one of the best defenses in the league and the biggest knock on him was that he worked too hard. Of course he was going to have a few suitors. Lucky for Bulls fans, Doc Rivers was there to counsel Thibodeau on his choice. From the AP:
Rivers recalled a story about how Thibodeau had two teams chasing him before helping persuade him to take the Chicago job. “He actually had two jobs and I grabbed him by the shoulder and said, `Are you kidding me? You have a chance to coach Derrick Rose and you’re thinking about another job?’ Are you nuts? I actually said, ‘If it’s a penny to go there or $10 million to go to the other place, take the penny. In the long run you’ll be able to coach.”’
This is why it pays to have smart mentors. Even if no one could have guessed that Derrick Rose would make such a huge jump from his second to third season, you still knew he was going to be good. Plus, the Bulls had a ton of cap space that summer, and even though they weren’t able to snag one of the top prizes, they were definitely in the running. Between Rose, the cap space and a number of good young players already on the roster, it was a pretty nice place to land.
And things seem to have worked out pretty well. After one season, Thibodeau won Coach of the Year and took the Bulls to the best record in the league before falling to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Nice rookie season for a coach, especially since he made way more than one cent for the year. Even though I get Doc’s point, that’s way too little to be paid for such a stressful job.