Thibodeau: Bulls’ turnaround started before wins started coming
BY HERB GOULD For Sun-Times Media November 18, 2013 10:02PM
Updated: December 20, 2013 6:33AM
When the Bulls lost 97-80 at Indiana on Nov. 6 to fall to 1-3, brows might have been furrowing among fans and experts.
But coach Tom Thibodeau saw positives — significant for a coach who’s always striving for more — that developed into the Bulls reeling off four consecutive wins after that.
‘‘I thought [the turnaround] started in the days prior to the first Indiana game,’’ Thibodeau said Monday. ‘‘We’d had a few days of quality practice time. We played well at Indiana. We didn’t finish the game as well as we would have liked, but we’d had an unusual amount of guys out in training camp. That really hurt us. Guys practicing together, building chemistry you only get from working together — that has been huge for us.’’
Friends before and after
Thibodeau and Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford were on opposite sides for a couple of hours Monday night. But day in and day out, they’re close friends.
They worked together as assistants with the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets in 2000-07 and have followed similar paths to their current jobs. Both are New England natives who worked their way up the NBA ranks after playing and coaching at small Eastern colleges.
When preparing for this, his first season as an NBA coach, Clifford sought Thibodeau’s advice.
‘‘He’s a great guy,’’ Clifford said. ‘‘He’s one of my closest friends, and on a professional note, he’s very much a mentor to me. When I joined the Knicks 14 years ago, he decided to take me under his wing. He still helps me. In September, I flew to Chicago and just spent the day with him and talked about everything. He’s as good as it gets.’’
Thibodeau is pleased to see Clifford move up the ladder.
‘‘He’s worked extremely hard to get this opportunity,’’ Thibodeau said, ‘‘and he’s well-prepared for it. He’s got them organized, playing hard, playing smart, playing together. He’s done a terrific job.’’
Ewing’s turn next
Since ending a stellar NBA career in 2002, Georgetown/Knicks legend Patrick Ewing has been working as an NBA assistant, and Thibodeau expects Ewing, the Bobcats’ associate head coach, to be given a shot as a head coach soon.
‘‘It’ll happen,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s very deserving. He’s done it the right way. He’s prepared himself well. When the opportunity comes, he’ll do a great job.’’
Ewing, who was an assistant with Thibodeau in Houston as well as a Knick coached by Thibodeau, isn’t completely sold.
‘‘Only time will tell,’’ Ewing, 51, said. ‘‘Thibs waited 20-something years. I’m not waiting that long.’’
The victory gave the Bulls their first five-game winning streak since Feb. 29-March 7, 2012, before Derrick Rose went down with his major knee injury.
† The Bobcats are 3-3 on the road. They were 6-35 on the road last season.
† The Bobcats played without Al Jefferson, who’s suffering from a bone bruise on his right ankle. The 6-10 center, who’s averaging 15 points and 8.7 rebounds, is expected to return later this week.