CHICAGO (MCT) — One of the few givens about this Bulls season is that the newly paid Tom Thibodeau won’t change.
Money can’t sway obsession. Practices remain long, detailed and organized. Communication is intact. Accountability is demanded.
Seven of the faces are new on what eventually should be a 14-player roster. With chemistry needed, buying into what Thibodeau is preaching is essential. And despite the Bulls coach signing a four-year, roughly $17 million extension to open training camp, that message remains as true as a 14-hour workday.
“I appreciate what he brings,” veteran center Nazr Mohammed said. “Coach (Rick) Pitino told me before I got here he’s a worker. He’s one of the coaches who lives in the gym, a basketball junkie. He’s here early, stays late. (Pitino) told me to be prepared for (Thibodeau’s) attention to detail. So I knew coming in that’s what it was going to be like.
“Physically, he wants things done a certain way. He wants you to go hard. He wants to make practices so they’re like game situations, so when you get in the game, you’ve been there, you’re in shape, you already know what to do. Mentally, he really wants you to know the terminology. He wants you to know what the other team is doing. He actually quizzes you.”
One of Kirk Hinrich’s many disappointments about being traded shortly after Thibodeau accepted the job in 2010 was not getting to play for such a demanding coach. Hinrich’s time is now.
“It’s intense,” the veteran guard said. “He expects you to be locked in when you come in the gym. When you’re together as a team, time is valuable. So I like that.
“After being in so many different situations for different coaches, you appreciate preparation as you go along. As a younger player, you might not. You might think it’s harder work or whatever. But it’s nice to be in a situation where you know you’re going to be prepared every day.”
Guard Marco Belinelli said everybody in the league is aware of a Thibodeau-coached team’s reputation: It defends and works hard. Reserve center Kyrylo Fesenko said he sees similarities to Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan. Veteran guard Marko Jaric drew a parallel to another cornerstone of consistency, Gregg Popovich.
“At the beginning of some seasons, not many talk about San Antonio, and then they’re always one of the top teams,” Jaric said. “You can see there’s a system behind the success here. He’s incredibly detailed. The way we practice and (how) he teaches us to think (about) the game is good.”
Hinrich summarized Thibodeau succinctly.
“Usually, a team is a reflection of its coach,” he said. “You could tell just from the way this team competed, they were prepared.”
“You’re striving for excellence and perfection, knowing you’re not going to get to perfection,” he said. “You want to see how close you can get to it. It’s important to set the bar high. Players help establish the standards you’re going to have. I don’t want them to be satisfied.”