Thomas Joseph Thibodeau Jr. (// THIB-ə-doh; born January 17, 1958) is an American basketball coach who most recently was head coach and president of basketball operations of the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Since June 2013, he has served as an assistant coach for the United States men's national basketball team.
Thibodeau as head coach of the Chicago Bulls in 2011
|Born||January 17, 1958|
New Britain, Connecticut
|High school||New Britain (New Britain, Connecticut)|
|College||Salem State (1977–1981)|
|1981–1984||Salem State (assistant)|
|1989–1991||Minnesota Timberwolves (assistant)|
|1992–1994||San Antonio Spurs (assistant)|
|1994–1996||Philadelphia 76ers (assistant)|
|1996–2004||New York Knicks (assistant)|
|2004–2007||Houston Rockets (assistant)|
|2007–2010||Boston Celtics (Associate HC)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|As head coach:
As assistant coach:
As a defensive coach, he helped the Houston Rockets rank among the Top 5 in the league in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense from 2004 to 2007, and he has helped his team finish in the league's Top 10 in team defense 15 times. He coached in 87 playoff games and was part of the 1999 NBA Finals as an assistant coach with the New York Knicks before joining the Boston Celtics, with whom he won the 2008 NBA Finals as well as helping guide them back to the 2010 NBA Finals, serving as a defensive coach. In 2011, he was named the NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Bulls to a 62-win season.
College and early coaching careerEdit
Thibodeau played basketball at Salem State College, serving as captain during the 1980-81 season. During his time with the Vikings, the six-foot-two-inch Thibodeau helped Salem State to consecutive Division III national tournaments (1980–81). In 1980, Thibodeau helped Salem State to the league championship and the school's first NCAA Tournament bid. Upon graduating, he became an assistant coach at the school in 1981. In 1984, at age 25, he became head coach at Salem State after serving three years as an assistant. One season later he became an assistant coach at Harvard University, where he spent the next four seasons.
While coaching in college, Thibodeau attended coaching clinics and visited the practices of many of the top coaches in the U.S., including Hall of Fame coaches Bobby Knight, Rick Pitino, Hubie Brown, Gary Williams, Morgan Wootten, and Jim Calhoun. In 1987, Thibodeau befriended Bill Musselman, a former head coach in the NBA, ABA and NCAA who was coaching the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association. According to the New York Times, "the Patroons’ practices, the attention to detail, the efficiency, the sheer number of offensive sets, fed into Thibodeau's addiction."
After four years at Harvard, he entered the NBA in 1989, as an assistant coach with an expansion team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who had hired Bill Musselman as the team's first head coach. Prior to the 1991–92 season, he joined the Seattle SuperSonics as an advance scout.
Thibodeau moved to the San Antonio Spurs the following season, where he worked as an assistant coach to Jerry Tarkanian, Rex Hughes and John Lucas for two seasons. After the 1993–94 season, he left the Spurs along with Lucas to become an assistant under Lucas with the Philadelphia 76ers. After the 1995–96 season, he again left simultaneously with Lucas, this time joining the New York Knicks as an assistant to head coach Jeff Van Gundy.
During his tenure with the Knicks, he helped the team set a then-NBA record by holding 33 consecutive opponents under 100 points in the 2000–01 season. As part of the Knicks coaching staff, he also helped Van Gundy to coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars in the 2000 All-Star Game. He spent seven years with the Knicks before joining the Houston Rockets prior to the 2003–04 season, where again he was an assistant to head coach Van Gundy, who has described Thibodeau as "brilliant".
On August 30, 2007, Thibodeau was named associate head coach of the Boston Celtics, who hoped his hiring would bolster their defense. Eventually, he helped the Celtics become the best defensive team in the league. On November 4, 2007, Thibodeau took over head coaching duties against the Toronto Raptors in place of Doc Rivers, who was unable to coach due to the death of his father earlier that day.
During the 2008 playoffs, Thibodeau was rumored to be a candidate for the vacant head coaching job with the New York Knicks, for whom he had worked as an assistant coach for seven years, as well as the Chicago Bulls, but he was not hired by either.
On June 2, 2010, Thibodeau interviewed with officials from the Chicago Bulls for their vacant head coach position. On June 23, he was confirmed as the Bulls' head coach. Thibodeau was named the NBA Coach of the Year on May 1, 2011, after tying the record for most wins by a rookie head coach with 62. He also led the Bulls to their first 50-win season and first division title since the Michael Jordan era. The Bulls lost the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat.
On February 14, 2012, Thibodeau clinched the position of Eastern Conference All-Star Coach for the All-Star Game in Orlando. At the time, the Bulls were first in the Eastern Conference.
With a win over the Orlando Magic on March 19, 2012, Thibodeau became the fastest coach in NBA history to earn 100 career victories. He accomplished this in 130 games, one game fewer than the record set previously by Avery Johnson in 2006. Thibodeau and the Bulls were the East's top seed entering the playoffs and also had the league's best regular-season record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
In Game 1 of the Bulls' first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, point guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL. Thibodeau defended his decision to keep Rose in the game with 1 minute, 22 seconds remaining in the game and the Bulls leading by 12 points. Commenting on Thibodeau's decision, Bulls general manager Gar Forman stated, "There is absolutely no issue there. It's a playoff game. They had cut a lead down (from 20) to 12. We're going to have our guys on the floor making sure we win the game. Tom is a terrific coach who does a lot of things well. One of the best things he does is pace our team."
Rose missed the entire 2012–13 season, but despite his absence, the Bulls finished 45-37, second in the Central Division (behind the Indiana Pacers) and 5th in their conference. They defeated the Brooklyn Nets 4-3 (after leading 3-1) in the first round of the playoffs and lost to the Miami Heat 4–1 in the next round. On May 13, 2013, Thibodeau was fined $35,000 for criticizing the referees during the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat.
Thibodeau finished third in 2014 NBA Coach of the Year voting. He led the second year straight Derrick Rose-less Bulls to the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls' season ended with a 4-1 series loss to the fifth-seeded Washington Wizards.
Tension between the Bulls' front office and Thibodeau grew considerably over the 2014-15 season, which ended in a six-game series loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Shortly thereafter, on May 28, 2015, the Bulls fired Thibodeau.
On April 20, 2016, it was announced that the Minnesota Timberwolves had hired Thibodeau as head coach and president of basketball operations. The Timberwolves had spent the better part of a decade in the NBA wilderness, having not made the playoffs since 2004. In his second season, the Timberwolves made their first playoff appearance in 14 years. The Timberwolves fired Thibodeau from his positions as head coach and president of basketball operations on January 6, 2019.
Head coaching recordEdit
|Salem State Vikings (Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference) (1984–1985)|
|Regular season||G||Games coached||W||Games won||L||Games lost||W–L %||Win–loss %|
|Playoffs||PG||Playoff games||PW||Playoff wins||PL||Playoff losses||PW–L %||Playoff win–loss %|
|Chicago||2010–11||82||62||20||.756||1st in Central||16||9||7||.563||Lost in Conference Finals|
|Chicago||2011–12||66||50||16||.758||1st in Central||6||2||4||.333||Lost in First Round|
|Chicago||2012–13||82||45||37||.549||2nd in Central||12||5||7||.417||Lost in Conference Semifinals|
|Chicago||2013–14||82||48||34||.585||2nd in Central||5||1||4||.200||Lost in First Round|
|Chicago||2014–15||82||50||32||.610||2nd in Central||12||6||6||.500||Lost in Conference Semifinals|
|Minnesota||2016–17||82||31||51||.378||5th in Northwest||—||—||—||—||Missed playoffs|
|Minnesota||2017–18||82||47||35||.573||4th in Northwest||5||1||4||.200||Lost in First Round|
He has been called "one of the best coaches in the NBA", sometimes ranking among the top five coaches in the league among NBA general managers. He was ranked 13th best coach in 2017 by ESPN, despite the Timberwolves finishing with a bottom six record.
Highly regarded as a defensive strategist, in January 2013, ESPN praised Thibodeau's defensive system as "the pinnacle of team defensive strategy in the NBA." However, according to a 2010 Boston Globe article, "one of the many misconceptions about Thibodeau is that he’s strictly a defensive specialist." Jeff Van Gundy hired Thibodeau because he was drawn to "his innovative offensive sets" and "player development skills."
Thibodeau has been described as a "no-nonsense coach, but his personal authenticity and the success of his strategies endear him to his players." According to Kevin Garnett, who played for Thibodeau in Boston, Thibodeau is "a worker. He's a guy that loves his job. He does it with passion."
In 2005, while an assistant with the Houston Rockets, Thibodeau began working with Yao Ming, traveling to China to hone Yao's skills. According to Jon Barry, a former NBA player who worked as an assistant with the Rockets, "Thibodeau was an effective one-on-one teacher [who spent] countless hours ... working with Yao Ming on his footwork...." During the 2004–05 season, Yao averaged 18.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The following season, after working with Thibodeau, Yao averaged 22.3 points and 10.2 rebounds.
A number of Thibodeau's former players have praised him for his ability to develop their talent. According to Joakim Noah, who played for Thibodeau with the Bulls, "I feel like I really improved as a player because of him."
Thibodeau has been criticized for playing his starters too many minutes, resulting in them becoming worn down and/or injured over the course of the season. Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah are three key players who have suffered declines in their production and serious injuries over the course of their careers playing for Thibodeau.
A native of New Britain, Connecticut, Thibodeau was born to Thomas J. Thibodeau Sr., and Ann M. (Montanile) Thibodeau and has four siblings (two brothers and two sisters). He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science in counseling from Salem State University. In 1998, he was inducted into the New Britain Sports Hall of Fame.
Thibodeau has never been married. According to a 2012 New York Times article, Thibodeau was engaged while he was in graduate school at Salem State, but called it off a month or two before the wedding.
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- Timberwolves beat Nuggets in OT to end 14-year playoff drought
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