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Coach Tom Thibodeau’s work ethic has won his players’ respect

Bulls forward Carlos Boozer says coach Tom Thibodeau’s tireless preparatiis among reasons players respect him. | Sun-Times Media

Bulls forward Carlos Boozer says coach Tom Thibodeau’s tireless preparation is among the reasons players respect him. | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 23, 2012 6:18AM

What is the value of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau?

That’s a question with no easy answer.

Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf thinks Thibodeau is worth four more years and close to $18 million, as evidenced by the contract extension he just handed him.

Stats geeks and numbers crunchers might measure Thibodeau by an expected number of victories, comparing the Bulls’ performance in various areas to that of their opponents. The problem with mashing Thibodeau into a formula is that there is a relatively small sample size (two seasons as a head coach) and that star Derrick Rose played in only 39 games last season.

But it’s the value the players put on Thibodeau that matters most. And that’s a test Thibodeau is passing with flying colors.

‘‘I get to the gym about two hours before practice, and his car is already in the lot and the light is on in his office,’’ forward Carlos Boozer said of Thibodeau. ‘‘He’s very strategic, and everything he does is calculated. He puts a lot of thought into his practice plans, a lot of thought into his game plan, and he’s been successful that way. One of the reasons we trust him is he puts the time in. When you have a guy that puts as much time in as Thibs, you should trust it.’’

That’s no easy sell for newer players who are experiencing Camp Thibodeau for the first time. Forward Vladimir Radmanovic is worn down physically, and guard Marco Belinelli has looked overwhelmed mentally as he learns Thibodeau’s schemes.

Boozer said the players who are entering their third seasons with Thibodeau are talking with the newer guys — rookies and veterans alike — about life under him. It’s hard work, monotonous and draining, but it yields succcess. There’s the sell.

‘‘We’ve seen our success through his system, through his practice schedule, through his days off, through his regimen,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘And we’ve had success the last two years, so we trust it because we’ve reaped the benefits of that success.

‘‘We tell the new guys that are coming in as rookies or the vets that have been around — some of them are coming from losing programs, to be quite frank; this is their first time to be on a winning team — we just tell them, ‘Keep working and be focused. It will help in the long run.’

‘‘The thing that Tom talked to us about almost every training camp is begin with the end in mind. Our end goal is to put a banner up, so the work we do now will benefit if we put everything into it.’’

Boozer said Thibodeau already has reached the upper echelon of NBA coaches in terms of being respected by the players, and that’s more than half the battle.

‘‘It’s a win business,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘If you establish yourself as a player, you get respect. If you establish yourself as a winning coach, you get respect. If you don’t, then that respect might not always be there.

‘‘You hear stories from other teams where guys don’t listen to the coach because there are guys that have more experience than the coach has. On this team, Thibs has been a part of a lot of great teams as an assistant. Coming in his first year, he won [62] games. Last year, in a shortened season, we won 50 — one of two teams to do that. So we’re able to see the success and the time he puts in.

‘‘He demands that respect because we win. When you have a coach that puts the time in and puts you in position to win, you give him respect.’’

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