Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
On Twitter: MrMichaelLee and PostSports  |  Facebook  |  E-mail alerts: Redskins and Sports  |  RSS
Posted at 10:07 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Tom Thibodeau turned bad fit in Washington into great opportunity in Chicago

By Michael Lee

You probably don't remember me. (REUTERS/Frank Polich)


The first-year coach having the most success this season was once a Wizards assistant. Maybe that's a stretch, since Chicago Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau was around for only slightly longer than Drew Gooden. But Thibodeau was hired to be a member of Eddie Jordan's staff in July 2007 and less than four years later he has the Bulls in contention for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Thibodeau arrived in Washington with a ton of experience and hype after serving as an assistant with the New York Knicks -- where he worked with Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld -- and Houston Rockets, garnering a reputation as a defensive guru. But his time the Wizards was short-lived, as he experienced a "change of heart" about four days after signing. The reason Thibodeau left was never clear, but league sources said he felt uneasy that he was interviewed and hired by Grunfeld, rather than Jordan. Thibodeau also had received a two-year deal, while the rest of Jordan's staff had one season left, creating the perception that he would eventually be Jordan's replacement.

When asked about the move on Monday -- a few hours before leading the Bulls to their third win over the rebuilding Wizards -- Thibodeau said, "I just didn't feel comfortable. I probably made a decision quicker than I should've. They were great. It's a great organization and I wish them nothing but the best."

The Wizards let Thibodeau out of his contract and Jordan later hired Randy Ayers, who helped the Wizards to their best defensive season the past eight years. Thibodeau, of course, went to Boston a few weeks later and devised the schemes that helped the Celtics win their 17th NBA championship, with Kevin Garnett anchoring the defense.

Thibodeau stayed with the Celtics for three seasons before replacing Vinny Del Negro shortly after Boston lost Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers. "I've been very fortunate, because of the teams that I've been with," he said. "A long time in New York with a lot of great teams and great players and coaches, and management. That was a great organization. Houston was the same thing. Then, of course, Boston was wonderful because of the people and the championship there. I felt that I was always in a great position. Even though I always wanted the opportunity to be a head coach, I also felt like the positions I had were great positions because of the people and the winning."

He feels fortunate to get his first head coaching job with Derrick Rose running the show. "When this position opened up, I thought it was ideal for me, because of the young nucleus they already had in place and the salary cap space to move forward," Thibodeau said. "I thought it was a good young team, that had a lot of potential."

Thibodeau said he doesn't have any negative feelings towards the Wizards, who made the playoffs in 2007-08 but have been a lottery team ever since. Jordan has since been replaced by Ed Tapscott and later Flip Saunders. "That's in the past. It's just something that didn't work out. It was a long time ago. I didn't want to take an opportunity where I felt it wouldn't be a good fit. I think I was fortunate where it worked out the way it did. I had a great situation in Boston and I felt like every year we were going to be in the chase for the championship and that was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Things worked out well. Sometimes it's just a lucky break. That's basically what happened."

By Michael Lee  | March 1, 2011; 10:07 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Evans, Crawford not surprised by Bibby's decision
Next: Derrick Rose: "I have a lot of confidence right now"

Comments

Tom Thibideau would have been so frustrated in washington. We did not have the physical defensive personel he was looking for to make his team top 5 in the defense so he took the job in Boston. Good move on his part. Chicago last night was the most physical team I have seen played washington this year.

Posted by: jefferu | March 1, 2011 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Let's stop sugar-coating this episode by calling it a "bad fit," and call it for what it was -- Eddie Jordan ran this guy out of town. You would think that with his team's defensive shortcomings, Jordan would have greeted Thibodeau warmly and with open arms, but instead he did the opposite. (Go back and look at the t.v. interviews Jordan did at the time. Jordan talked about how he met with Thibodeau, they talked and "came to some agreements." That's code for, "I told him how we were going to do things." Obviously Thibodeau was uncomfortable with those "agreements," so in less than 24 hours he was gone.)

Posted by: disgruntledfan | March 1, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

It's hard to come into a situation where you've got a veteran club with established stars and title aspirations, even as an assistant. And unrealistic as those hopes seem now, that's how the Wiz felt about themselves. And you're supposed to teach that group to play defense? I imagine Randy Ayers was pulling his hair out some, too.

Posted by: Samson151 | March 1, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Plus I wouldn't be surprised if Ed Jordan saw Thibo as his eventual replacement in the Grunfeld master plan. Also not a good position to be in.

Posted by: Samson151 | March 1, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

disgruntledfan:

"....Let's stop sugar-coating this episode by calling it a "bad fit," and call it for what it was -- Eddie Jordan ran this guy out of town. You would think that with his team's defensive shortcomings, Jordan would have greeted Thibodeau warmly and with open arms, but instead he did the opposite. (Go back and look at the t.v. interviews Jordan did at the time. Jordan talked about how he met with Thibodeau, they talked and "came to some agreements." That's code for, "I told him how we were going to do things." Obviously Thibodeau was uncomfortable with those "agreements," so in less than 24 hours he was gone.)...."

Amen.

SAMSON151:

"....Plus I wouldn't be surprised if Ed Jordan saw Thibo as his eventual replacement in the Grunfeld master plan. Also not a good position to be in...."

That too.

Posted by: glawrence007 | March 1, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"The Wizards let Thibodeau out of his contract and Jordan later hired Randy Ayers..."

Yeah, and who got the better of that deal?

They kept Eddie "Small Ball" Jordan too long here. But as people said Thibo would not have been happy here. At least in Chicago he has a young, hungry, team that is willing to listen to what he has to say.

Proof is in the pudding.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | March 1, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Plus I wouldn't be surprised if Ed Jordan saw Thibo as his eventual replacement in the Grunfeld master plan. Also not a good position to be in.

Posted by: Samson151 | March 1, 2011 11:09 AM

Ironically this proves what type of man/leader we had in Ed Jordan. If Ed truly saw Thibo as his replacement and also a man whom could strengthen the Team defensively, he would have been smart to accept the situation above board and nurture the situation to his benefit.

A smart man would have taken Thibo in and collectively tried to put the best product on the floor. If they were successful at doing it, then it would have boded very well for Jordan, even if he had to eventually move on for Thib.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 1, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

The lesson that Eddie could have learned from Thib as a defense guru along with opening oneself up to the knowledge and experience of developing professional relationships with one's peers though an assistant, would have better prepared Eddie for his next job.

He chose to snub out Thib and we see how that played out in the long run.

Stubbornness and lack of wisdom/foresight can unravel the best of us.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 1, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Jordan didn't run anyone out of anywhere. Given the frayed relationship between him and Grunfeld he couldn't have if he wanted to. Was he happy about Grunfeld's rather spineless attempt to backdoor him out of his job (rather than simply manning up and firing him outright like everyone knew he wanted to)? Of course not. But realistically, there was nothing he could do about it. If Thibadeau had wanted to take the job and wait around for the ax to fall on Jordan he easily could have. But he's apparently made of better stuff than that and decided not be used as a pawn in Grunfeld's little pissing contest with Jordan. But to suggest that he was "run out of town" doesn't give Thibadeau enough credit. It suggests that he wasn't strong enough to stand up to Jordan's galre, which would seem to be rather a silly suggestion, given his rep. He instead chose not to put himself in a position of having to stab a fellow coach and colleague in the back in order to get ahead. All credit to him, I say.


And BTW, this:

"A smart man would have taken Thibo in and collectively tried to put the best product on the floor. If they were successful at doing it, then it would have boded very well for Jordan, even if he had to eventually move on for Thib."

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 1, 2011 11:47 AM

Is a colossal load of nonsense.

Posted by: kalo_rama | March 1, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

@rphilli721,

Your point from the previous thread in response to mine was that Philadelphia was actually a better team than ours.

I can understand why you would say that, but with Ed coaching Philly, the results he achieved with them were no better than the results than we were getting here with Flip.

At the end of last season we both were in the shitter. They were 27-55 and we were 26-56.

Eddie Jordan was on his way out and we were going to keep our experienced vet coach.

Now, we said rebuild, but still, comparing the outlook for the both of us, I would never have guessed that Philly would become an exciting 500 ball club and we would look like crap the whole season.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 1, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Your point from the previous thread in response to mine was that Philadelphia was actually a better team than ours.

I can understand why you would say that, but with Ed coaching Philly, the results he achieved with them were no better than the results than we were getting here with Flip.

At the end of last season we both were in the shitter. They were 27-55 and we were 26-56.

Eddie Jordan was on his way out and we were going to keep our experienced vet coach.

Now, we said rebuild, but still, comparing the outlook for the both of us, I would never have guessed that Philly would become an exciting 500 ball club and we would look like crap the whole season.

LarryInClintonMD.

Couple of problems with this analysis. One, the Wizards don't really have anyone of Iggy's caliber. Makes a difference. I would have liked to see how the Wiz would have fared if the (only) rumored Iggy for Gil trade had materialized.

Two, it's not exactly the same team as the team EJ coached. First off, they decided off of his performance the end of last year (under EJ) that Jrue was ready and handed him the keys. Two, they shuffled the deck chairs a bit and replaced some sofites with tougher players. I'm hoping the Wiz do the same.

That's no to say that Doug isn't doing a better job, but it's not apples to apples, and doesn't completely bear on the Wizards.

Posted by: ts35 | March 1, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"A smart man would have taken Thibo in and collectively tried to put the best product on the floor. If they were successful at doing it, then it would have boded very well for Jordan, even if he had to eventually move on for Thib."

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 1, 2011 11:47 AM

Is a colossal load of nonsense.

Posted by: kalo_rama | March 1, 2011 12:15 PM

Is a colossal load of nonsense?

Really?

Not true.

Just depends how far and wide you've experienced life. I have seen numerous examples of folks being replaced by someone specifically brought in to replace them.

The ones who made the best of the situation and went on to be even more successful were the ones who realized the situation and facilitated it to the best of their abilities. It's all above board and all in the way you handle it, but something that Jordan saw no value in.

Thib to his credit as you point out probably saw that Eddie did not have a clue how to handle this delimna.

Eddie could have fostered an enormouns amount of respect from Thibs and at the same time increased his professional portfolio which only would have boded well for him.

He, Eddie could have learned from the experience and it would have as in most cases been his reward going forward.

But Eddie did not continue to grow and left here fired. He could have used that situation to further his career, instead he made a bad decision as most shortsighted people do in difficult/trying situations.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 1, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

"Really?"

Yes, really.

"Thib to his credit as you point out probably saw that Eddie did not have a clue how to handle this delimna. "

Except that's not what I pointed out, and your utterly predictable, yet completely ineffectual, attempt at setting up yet another flimsy straw man to knock down (as opposed to addressing what I actually said) only serves to further invalidate what we shall charitably refer to as your argument.

As for the rest . . . you got it. More utter nonsense.

Posted by: kalo_rama | March 1, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

The problem with the Wizards are it's roster and the specifically the player's that refuse to be coached..

Blatche, McGee are the biggest offenders..Both have terrible attitudes. I don't know how Flip even deals with either of the two..It's ridiculous..

Posted by: kevenjones | March 1, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

"That's no to say that Doug isn't doing a better job, but it's not apples to apples, and doesn't completely bear on the Wizards."

Posted by: ts35 | March 1, 2011 12:51 PM

Collins is an excellent coach but, as his career arc has proven, he's also a coach with a short shelf life. His pedal-to-the-metal, in-your-face approach pushes and drives players but it also wears thin on them rather quickly. It's part of the reason why he's best suited for young, developing teams and has never lasted more than 3 years in any one place.

Posted by: kalo_rama | March 1, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

And I do think Collins' Sixers resemble Jordan's Wizards in one respect. I think, when all is said and done, the Sixers will also end up being a team that tantalizes with promise they never manage to fulfill. They'll ride Iguodala and Co. to 45 wins or so every year for 2 or 3, get the fans all excited about the prospect of challenging for the East, and then peter out on the way towards the inevitable rebuild. Iggy's a nice player, but, like Arenas, he's not "best player on a contender" material.

Posted by: kalo_rama | March 1, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Now, we said rebuild, but still, comparing the outlook for the both of us, I would never have guessed that Philly would become an exciting 500 ball club and we would look like crap the whole season.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 1, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why not. Philly was an exciting, about .500 team BEFORE EJ. He destroyed that and was gone in a season. I think they were ready to get rid of him about half way through the year.

Rebuild = look like crap.

But hey...I forgot...the key to success is to never rebuild right?

Posted by: SDMDTSU | March 1, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

don't know why not. Philly was an exciting, about .500 team BEFORE EJ. He destroyed that and was gone in a season
Posted by: SDMDTSU | March 1, 2011 1:26 PM

Wrong, the team was killed by injuries...

EJ is by far the best coach the Wizards/Bullets have had since 78..

Grunfeld should have been fired not EJ..

Posted by: kevenjones | March 1, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

And I do think Collins' Sixers resemble Jordan's Wizards in one respect. I think, when all is said and done, the Sixers will also end up being a team that tantalizes with promise they never manage to fulfill. They'll ride Iguodala and Co. to 45 wins or so every year for 2 or 3, get the fans all excited about the prospect of challenging for the East, and then peter out on the way towards the inevitable rebuild. Iggy's a nice player, but, like Arenas, he's not "best player on a contender" material.

Posted by: kalo_rama

I may have misunderstood, but I thought he was comparing Collins' Sixers this year to Jordan's Sixers last year and using it as an parallel for Flip being the problem. Or you may just be making your own separate comparison, which is fine.

In terms of the current crop of Sixers, they're good, but they definitely don't look like world beaters. They have some nice pieces, but at the very least they need Evan Turner to become an All-Star caliber player. Even with that and if Jrue continues to improve, they would need a better inside presence than Brand/Hawes/Speights to make serious noise.

Posted by: ts35 | March 1, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

The guy left because he respects the game. he did not want to be part of back stabbing and setting a guy up for failure. it was known since day one ernie was not a jordan fan either. the way Ernie fired Jordan was just wrong. and to replace him with Tapscott and the show that followed was just outright embarrassing to Jordan, the fans and people of DC.

Posted by: oknow1 | March 1, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Wrong, the team was killed by injuries...

EJ is by far the best coach the Wizards/Bullets have had since 78..

Grunfeld should have been fired not EJ..

Posted by: kevenjones | March 1, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

You sure? Who spent time injured? Couldn't have been EJ's small ball. Or the fact the defense went to hell. Or that he managed to lose the team? Could it? Nah.

If it was injuries...he'd still be there with a healthy team. Owners don't eat contracts after one season when they know it was destroyed by injuries.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | March 1, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

What am I missing here? Philly and the Wiz had similar records last year sure, but our roster is completely different this season and was expected to lose a lot. I am not a Philly expert, but the main players are the same there to my knowledge - AI, Brand, Williams, Jru, etc.. They just jettisoned EJ bc he was a horrible fit. Philly thrives on defense and hustle and converting those opportunities. We all know defense disappears with EJ as coach no matter the personnel.

Posted by: rphilli721 | March 1, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I mean Philly is on track to win 41 games.. last year they won i think 27 or 28 the year before..

An improvement but Brand missed alot of games the year before. They lost their starting PG, and Evans. Brand is one of their main pieces and he was pretty much hurt last year coming off shoulder surgery.

I like Doug Collins but he ain't no better of a coach than Eddie Jordan.

Posted by: kevenjones | March 1, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

@rphilli721,

I mean even with Thibodeau here coaching the defense we still had players that just didnt' and don't play defense..

The players have to want to play defense..
Jamison,Arenas,Blatche,etc.. just weren't and ain't interested in playing defense..

I don't think that's the coaches fault. And we don't know what EJ really could've have done had he had the backing of EG..I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have but up with what he was forced to put up with..but who knows...

Posted by: kevenjones | March 1, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

IIRC, Ernie hired him as lead asst and Eddie wouldn't push his guy down a notch for Thibs. Huge opportunity missed.

Posted by: heiser3@yahoo.com | March 1, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company