There's no denying Clippers head coach Doc Rivers thinks highly of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. After all, it was Rivers, then the head coach in Boston, who hired him as associate head coach in 2007. But at today's shootaround at the United Center, Rivers went a step further in his praise of Thibodeau, saying that if he were to leave Chicago the Bulls would "fall apart."
Rumors have circulated all season that Thibodeau's future in Chicago may not be for long due to spats with upper management, frustrations with injuries and the current roster. Thibodeau has denied all rumors -- including the one that said he had a deal lined up to become the Knicks' head coach next season -- and Rivers, one of Thibodeau's closest friends -- doesn't see any reason why Thibodeau won't be coaching in the Windy City in 2014-15.
"He's under contract, so yeah, I don't know why he wouldn't be. I think it'd be nuts not to have him here. I think he's one of the best coaches in the league and so if you have that, that's an asset. And I don' think any right-minded organization would allow that asset to leave, Rivers told reporters. "Because with all the adversity they've had with injuries, if you allow that one to leave things would fall apart, and that's pretty much a guarantee."
As much as Thibodeau has been applauded for competing in the East with a roster now void of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, Rivers admitted that the job Thibodeau did with last year's team may have been just an impressive. For much of the season half of the season, questions frequently arose about whether Rose, seen shooting, running and jumping in practice at the Berto Center, could potentially make a return to the lineup. That never happened, yet the Bulls still won 45 games and a playoff series against the Nets before bowing out in five games to the eventual champion Miami Heat.
"I think every year is his best coaching job, honestly. Last year he went through it, the year before," Rivers said. "Every year people keep expecting them to fall and they don't, and the guy that's standing there is Tom Thibodeau. He's the guy, he's the difference, he holds them together somehow. They trade Deng and yet they keep winning. The guy that's standing every day is Tom, and I think it's impressive what he's done."
Just as Rivers saw firsthand when Thibodeau was making the Celtics one of the best defenses in the NBA, he said the Bulls' head coach relentless nature has helped the Bulls push on after losing their two leading scorers before the All-Star break.
"He just doesn't relent. He doesn't believe that because a guy gets injured, even Rose, that a team should go away. I think he instills that in his players and he has some pretty good players. Noah is the other guy that stands out to me. They have a lot of like-minded players to Thibs. I think it's all because they've been around Tom."