There’s a lot of Jerry Sloan in Tom Thibodeau
BY NEIL HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org February 9, 2013 10:02PM
Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer bask in the moment of the Bulls’ bounce-back victory against the Utah Jazz on Friday night. | Rick Bowmer~AP
Updated: March 11, 2013 6:57AM
Carlos Boozer was summoned from the locker room after scoring 11 consecutive points down the stretch to lead the Bulls to a much-needed victory against the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
His former coach with the Jazz, Jerry Sloan, wanted a word. The two embraced and talked before Boozer hustled back to the locker room and Sloan disappeared down a corridor, not realizing his legacy already had cast a shadow over the Bulls in recent days.
“The similarity is their intensity to win,” Boozer would later say of Sloan and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “Their systems are very different, but their passion to win is the same. They are tough-minded guys. Coach Sloan was a tough player. Ask Jerry West who he hated to see guarding him, and he said Jerry Sloan. He brought that same mentality as a coach. He always brought in tough-minded guys. He took his persona onto the team.
“Thibs is similar in that regard. He’s a tough-minded guy. He obviously didn’t play in the NBA, but he’s been in the NBA basically his whole adult life so he’s seen everything, been through everything, won a championship and he has a strong desire to get back to that level. The similarity is toughness and passion to win.”
The Bulls’ 30th victory was no ordinary win. The Nuggets kicked them to the curb in Denver on Thursday night, and they came back snarling and scrapping Friday, tackling the challenge Thibodeau put in front of them.
Coaches as demanding as Thibodeau don’t always enjoy longevity, but these Bulls show no signs of tuning out their leader. Like Sloan, who was on the Jazz bench for 22 seasons, Thibodeau could be an exception — a demanding coach with staying power.
“You can’t say enough about what Jerry Sloan did as a coach,” Thibodeau said. “He stood for all the good things about this league. Hard, tough, smart, unselfish, great leader, great coach, great person. I can’t say enough about him.”
On Wednesday, Nuggets coach George Karl said preparing for the Bulls is like preparing for a team led by Sloan or Pat Riley because Thibodeau’s teams are similarly efficient and disciplined.
They know what they do best and how they have to play to win.
That’s high praise considering Sloan was not only one of the toughest players of his generation as a player for the Bulls, but he also was the only NBA coach to win 1,000 games with one team.
“There’s not a lot of nonsense out there,” Karl said of the Bulls. “There’s not a lot of lazy basketball. There’s a lot of serious basketball going on for most of the game. It’s an effort game. You have to match their energy on the boards.”
Curiously, it was the second time in as many days that Sloan’s name came up in a conversation about Thibodeau, umprompted.
Like the former Jazz coach, Thibodeau’s teams rely on discipline and teamwork. In a league in which coaches often rely on the improvisation of their players, Thibodeau and Sloan’s teams strive to master their respective systems.
“We play the same way regardless of who is on the floor,” veteran guard Rip Hamilton said when asked why the Bulls have been so successful despite so many injuries. “We run the same plays so guys know where to be and what to do. It reminds me of [Gregg Popovich] and the Spurs. They play the same way regardless of who is on the court. Jerry Sloan was the same way.”