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Don’t expect Tom Thibodeau to leave Bulls

Updated: May 26, 2014 6:36AM



Don’t expect Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to go to New York.

Not this summer or any time soon.

He won’t be sniffing around his old stomping grounds in Minneapolis this offseason, and he’s not Hollywood enough for Los Angeles.

He’s a Bull — and not just because he has a contract for three more seasons or because this was the team that gave him his first chance to be a head coach. It’s because Thibodeau also picked the Bulls.

‘‘When I was an assistant, I was fortunate to be involved with some really good teams,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘That’s why I wasn’t anxious to take a bad job.’’

Like most everything in Thibodeau’s life, his decision to take the Bulls’ job before the 2010-11 season was well-thought-out. It was about which franchise could he grab hold of, implement his culture and still have the backing of a front office that was focused on winning.

‘‘Your best players have
to sell what you’re trying to do with the team,’’ Thibodeau said.

They have. They’re all in.

That’s why even with the Bulls down 0-2 in their first-round playoff series against the Washington Wizards, none of the players seems intimidated. It’s not in their makeup to flinch. Thibodeau won’t have it.

Not that establishing a culture like that came easily. It was a process early on — and one that had to be implemented with as little resistance as possible.

Derrick Rose bought in with no problems.

‘‘Derrick was easy because of where he was, and Derrick had not gone through as much as [Joakim Noah] had,’’ Thibodeau said, referring to the bumpy first couple of seasons Noah had in a Bulls uniform. ‘‘They’re different personalities but similar in how badly they want to win.’’

Noah didn’t buy in initially. As a rookie in 2007-08, he saw Scott Skiles fired on Christmas Eve and interim replacement Jim Boylan leave after the season. Vinny Del Negro was handed the reins, but he didn’t seem to understand Noah’s strengths and weaknesses. Thibodeau did, but he had some hard lessons to teach, including getting Noah to understand the focus and concentration it takes to be a winning NBA player.

So, of course, there were glares between the two.

‘‘I remember one day we were working out at the Berto Center, and Thibs was putting me through a real hard workout,’’ Noah said this week. ‘‘I told him, ‘You know, Thibs, if we weren’t winning games, I would really, really hate you.’ And he said, ‘Trust me, Jo, I feel the same way about you.’ ’’

Noah wasn’t far off.

‘‘Initially, it was hard to run things [with Noah],’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘I talked to his college coach [Florida’s Billy Donovan], and he told me the same thing and that basically [Noah] got better every year. His first few years in the league, I was in Boston, so I had that perspective. Maybe that was good in some ways because you see him in a different light.

‘‘Then when I got here and had a chance to watch him work, I was able to step back and say, ‘OK, he has it.’ Not just the way he worked but his intelligence. You could see this guy would get better. He’s not satisfied. And when we needed him the most this year, he responded the best.’’

Once Rose and Noah were in, Luol Deng had no problem jumping aboard. He emerged as a two-time All-Star before he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in early January.

And now the machine runs itself. Just as Thibodeau envisioned, the new players fall in line because the core shows them the way.

‘‘You don’t work by yourself, so it’s the core of us selling it,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We’re at the point now where, for the new guys coming in, it’s, ‘OK, this is how we do it here.’ ’’

That’s why there’s no pushback. That’s why that as angry as forward Carlos Boozer is with Thibodeau about his lack of playing time in the fourth quarter — even more so in these playoffs, according to a source — it stays a ripple in the water rather than becoming a crashing wave.

‘‘When you’re around serious players that are committed to winning, they want to be coached; they want to be pushed,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘[Former NBA coach] Chuck Daly had this great line that you can’t trick NBA players, and you really can’t. You have to have the ability to give them a plan they can really believe in. I think if they believe in the plan, they’re going to buy in. And you have to be consistent with them and tell the truth.

‘‘If you do that, I don’t think you’ll have problems. But you have to have the right type of guys that are serious about winning. Everyone says they want to win, but very few are truly committed to paying the price. Very few.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops



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