Basketball lifers Thibodeau, Karl have mutual admiration

Basketball lifers Thibodeau, Karl have mutual admiration
February 7, 2013, 10:45 pm
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DENVER—Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t the flashiest guy around the NBA, but after 20 years of toiling as an assistant coach in the league and his success since arriving in Chicago, he’s won a lot of admirers, including Nuggets head coach George Karl.

A basketball lifer, Karl rhapsodized about both the Bulls and Thibodeau prior to their two teams meeting Thursday evening at the Pepsi Center.

“He’s one of those guys, where—I don’t know if he’d feel good [about this]—but he reminds me of coaching a Van Gundy-type team. they’re very, very, very disciplined, they’re very execute-oriented and they’re very defensive-minded. There’s not a lot of nonsense out there, there’s not a lot of lazy basketball, there’s pretty serious basketball going on for most of the basketball game and it’s an effort game. You’ve got to match their energy on the board,” Karl said. “But it’s fun to have a challenge. It kind of reminds me of how I felt when I coached [against] a Riley team or a Sloan team, a team that’s very, very efficient, very, very disciplined and they hang around. You’re not going to beat this team by a big number. You’ve got to beat them, but usually don’t beat them by a big number.

“Chicago is a—I don’t know how you phrase it—maybe the most efficient team in basketball. They play both ends of the court at a very high dedication and they execute very well,” he continued. “If they get healthy, if they get Rose back…they’re going to be a top-two or three team in the East.

“I think if Derrick Rose comes back healthy, I think there’s a chance [that the Bulls could win the East]. They were playing, last year, at a very high level before he got hurt. I’m always going to give the champs the benefit of the doubt, so I would say if they would get back healthy, they would be the second-most dangerous team to Miami in the East.”

Karl, who had current Bulls assistant coach Ron Adams on his staff in Milwaukee, then delved into Thibodeau’s long journey to become a head coach.

“Why are you asking me? You should ask a personnel director or a general manager,” he quipped. “I think Tom’s the type of guy that personality-wise, when you hang around him, he’s kind of boring and quiet. He’s not flamboyant and has that clever personality that sometimes gravitates people to certain people. Tom’s a basketball guy. He’s a gym guy, he’s an X-and-O guy, he’s a film-room guy. He doesn’t have the celebrity personality that maybe draws the attention of some personnel, guys who make those decisions.”

Thibodeau wasn’t as expansive, but for a man of few words when talking to the media, he was effusive in his praise of Karl.

“I think he’s one of the great coaches in this league. To do it the way he’s done it for all these years, it tells you how good he is and he always finds a way, no matter what team he has—whether it was Seattle, Milwaukee, here—it’s always the same. His teams play hard, they’re going to play unselfishly, he has his own style of play and I just love the way he is as a guy, too,” he said. “What you see is what you get. He’s true to himself. I think he’s a great teacher and to have the success that he’s had throughout his career, that says everything.”