Sunday, May 1, 2011Posted: 3:50 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
Luol Deng tried to feign surprise when asked about his reaction to Tom Thibodeau winning the NBAs Coach of the Year award.
Oh, he is? Deng quipped. No wonder why he was all fired up in practice today.
WATCH: Thibodeau's press conference, Part 1
He dropped the act shortly thereafter, as there was no doubt that not only were the Bulls well aware of the poorly-kept secret, but there was heartfelt belief that their first-year head coach was deserving of the honor.
I know its Coach Thibs name on it, but that makes all of us feel great," Deng said. "When one of us wins something, thats an award for all of us, really. Its been a great year. Hes an awesome coach. He deserves it. Hes a great coach on and off the court. Just the way we approach things, the way we approach games, we can take that into everyday life, just being a man, really handling your responsibilities. He holds us accountable and becoming winners. And winning 62 games, it became a habit, and its something that we really bought from Day 1 in training camp. Thats how you become a winner. We bought into it and he is very demanding.
WATCH: Press conference, Part 2
A lot of times, you think youre working hard until you see someone else whos doing more and then you pick that up and add that into what you do. Thats how we were all able to pick up our games this year. Derrick Rose becoming the player that he isyou know, MVPjust guys having solid years and guys being consistent. That really has a lot to do with him.
Joakim Noah, throughout an injury-riddled season in which he might not have always immediately appreciated the tough-love guidance that Thibodeau was imparting, seconded that motion. For the fourth-year center, that foundation was built last offseason, when the new head coach took the time out to individually instruct him on a daily basis.
Coach is one of the hardest workers Ive ever been around. He stays in late, first one here and he was here for me all summer, working me out. I feel like I really improved as a player because of him, said Noah. I felt that way right away when Thibs was working me out every day in the summertime. Thats not something that every head coach does, works out his player every day in the summer. To me, that meant a lot and at that same time, I feel like your coach is your leader and we have the personality of our coach.
Thibs represents us. The way we play is the way he is. Thibs has been through so many experiences. Hes somebody whos been an eighth seed, whos been on all kinds of playoff teams, whos been on the bottom, been on championship teams, so hes been in all kinds of locker rooms. All that experience definitely rubs off on his players.
While Rose is the face of the franchisethe All-Star point guard claimed Thibodeau should win the award back in the regular seasonDeng is the longest-tenured player on the team and Noah is its heart and soul, some of the Bulls lesser-known veteran role players had a big part in making the coachs transition seamless.
You guys used to always ask me how Thibodeau would fare as a head coach after being a longtime assistant. I didnt think it would be hard at all, said reserve forward Brian Scalabrine, who played under Thibodeau in Boston, their last stop. Media, general manager, presidents, fans, ownership before he didnt have to that, but when it comes to 94 by 50, its like hes been a head coach for a couple years.
Were not used to an assistant coach going in there and grabbing guys by the shirt, recounted Scalabrine about the beginning of the intense coachs tenure with the Celtics. Most guys in the league have not seen that.
Concurred Keith Bogans: You saw that he was consistent, tough-minded guy, focused and always wanted to win.
He just worked his ass off since he took the job here. I think hes one of the most well-prepared coaches Ive played for. His preparation is crazy. He wants everything perfect or close to perfect, Bogans, who played under Thibodeau in Houston, told CSNChicago.com. It doesnt surprise me that he won this award because he didnt do anything different. Even if he didnt get this award, he still would have approached the season the same way.
Chicagos brain trust felt the same way. Thibodeaus philosophy, defensive mindsetwhat Scalabrine describes as a defensive swagger"and serious-minded nature were apparently evident from the interview process (not to mention the performance of the teams he coached), but he exceeded even their expectations.
We had a pretty good idea of what we were getting and hes been everything we thought we would get, plus more, Bulls general manager Gar Formana dark-horse candidate for the leagues Executive of the Year, although that award will likely go to Miamis Pat Riley for his summer acquisition of the vaunted Big Threetold CSNChicago.com Sunday.
He came in from Day 1 and created a culture, and really our belief was, for this team to continue to grow, that there had to be an emphasis on defense and rebounding. He created a culture that was built on that with all our guys. A culture of work ethic, professionalism, accountability. The amazing thing was that hes done it so quick with eight new players.
Meanwhile, the Bulls could win another award in the near future. Rose is expected to win league MVP honors Tuesday.
His backup, C.J. Watson, spilled the beans in a congratulatory message on Twitter over the weekend, but Rosewho was excused from practice Sunday due to a personal issuedenied he had been informed of winning the award.
C.J. knows a lot of people out herea lot of famous people, too, said Rose, who also joked that because its too much trouble, he doesnt need Twitter. So watch that guy.
If I get it? queried the humble Chicago native, turning serious. It would be nice. Unbelievable. A goal that at the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to achieve. It would be huge, not only for me, but for the city.
Rose, who said his sprained left ankle suffered in the first round feels all right with the aid of constant treatment from the Bulls medical staff, also noted the that the award would be a great gift for next weekends Mothers Day.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.