Boston is out of the playoffs. As a Sixers fan that’s good because we don’t want a rival to succeed. More importantly it means Tom Thibodeau is 100% available right now to interview for the Sixers vacant head coaching position. And it looks like that will happen soon as Ed Stefanski has asked permission to interview Tom Thibodeau and Danny Ainge has granted him permission to do so.
Let me start with a few thoughts about hiring an assistant rather than a more established (name and face) head coach.
- While I understand the need to drum up some attention and favorable opinion of this team and franchise, hiring a big name as coach to accomplish it shouldn’t be a consideration and won’t work anyway. Only thing that will is wins. Hire the best available – period.
- I don’t want a guy to come in here with a diva attitude. I want a talented, smart coach with some serious drive, work ethic and desire to prove himself the only way he can – by winning and being the leader of that winning club.
- Is this roster suited for an established coach? Generally speaking those guys are looking for teams ready to compete on a high level immediately. Tend not to go for young teams or play young players and like to have a lot of control (not necessarily a bad thing).
- Where is the next great coach likely to come from? An established coach who reinvents himself or is rejuvenated in the right situation? Or an assistant coach who has gained some good experience and learning from other good head coaches, developed his own style and is ready to take the lead?
Just some thoughts to consider and talk about.
My Choice for the Sixers Next Head Coach – and Why
My front runner is Tom Thibodeau at the moment. I think the Sixers need a fresh face, new perspective and a new approach. For those who want a defense first coach this is your guy. For those who want Jeff Van Gundy, why not the guy who was his lead assistant and defensive guru for many years in New York and Houston. You can’t find anything but positive things about this guy. It’s sickening actually as I would take some comfort in a little negative criticism (which I found only a drip).
Doc Rivers and Jeff Van Gundy have openly and enthusiastically promoted Tom Thibodeau as a future head coach among others. In fact I even heard Doug Collins promote him on an ESPN telecast as well.
He is widely recognized and given credit for not only Boston’s defensive approach and prowess (along with KG) but also for the Houston Rocket’s defense which ranked in the the top 5 when he was there (2004-2007) as well as his 7 seasons under Van Gundy with the Knicks. He has played a vital role in getting 15 teams to the top 10 in defense in the NBA.
You already know he has a ring with Boston but he also was in the Finals with the Knicks in 1999 under Van Gundy and coached in 101 playoff games if my math is correct. Thibodeau has been coaching in the NBA for like 19 years including a 2-year stint in Philly with the Sixers under John Lucas (followed him from the Spurs).
You always look at who an assistant coach was under to gain some insight into how is style, approach and mentality has been sculpted. Thibodeau has coached under:
- Doc Rivers
- Jeff Van Gundy
- Bill Musselman
- John Lucas
Biggest Question Marks
- No head NBA head coaching experience
- For a guy that is raved about by just about everyone, WHY hasn’t he been hired as a head coach to this point after 18 season as an assistant?
- Unknown personality and style to most outside of the players and coaches he’s been around
- What about offense and developing players?
- What can he bring to or do for the Sixers?
Number 1: Gotta start somewhere. So the real question is should it be here since by all accounts around the league he will be a lead man at some point soon.
“You want to hire people as assistants who are better than you. He’s better.” “Whatever team hires him as a head coach, it’s going to be a grand slam for the team and a grand slam for the players.” – Jeff Van Gundy
Number 2: From what I’ve read Thibodeau hasn’t found the right fit in terms of a head coaching position and last year was in the midst of a title run which hurt his ability to interview from a timing standpoint. He is an intense, hard core defensive coach. If a team doesn’t want that or doesn’t have the personnel to play that way he probably won’t get the job. I’ve also read that his personality can be abrupt at times. Meaning he may not have developed the tact when communicating with players which is much more necessary as a head coach. Considering Stefanski’s trait of being a good communicator as a requirement of the job that could hurt Thibodeau as a candidate. I have it imagine he is good enough as a communicator if he has been able to get buy-in and execution on the defensive end throughout his career.
Number 3: What about his personality? Does he have fire, intensity and the personality necessary to get after players and hold them accountable? Or is he another meek “players” coach that let’s guys get away with too much too often? My own assumption is that it would be pretty damn hard to be a successful defensive coach, having coached under JVG and be a “mouse.” And by all accounts that’s accurate with regard to Thibodeau. If you’ve ever watched Celtics games you see him as the engaged assistant who is actively coaching defense on the sidelines. You’ll often see him actually in a defense stance barking at the players to tighten up on D.
They say he flat out loves defense and it comes through in his coaching. He is intense and fired up which infuses the players on the defensive end. I think KG sums it up perfectly:
“Coach is real animated. He’s real emotional. He’s real energetic. That’s what type of defense we try to go out and have. It’s an energetic, consistent defense. It’s a talkative defense, and when you see him on the side, those are the things that he’s put in for us to try to go and carry over to the court.” – Kevin Garnett, talking about Tom Thibodeau
Isn’t that exactly what we want?
Number 4: In my research one thing I uncovered got me particular excited was Thibodeau while known almost exclusively for his defense by most of the outside public, in closer circles he has proven to be well versed in developing talent and significantly improving the games (offensive) of players. Two big-time cases you may not have known…
“He’s awesome.” “He has an unfair advantage. He started drilling me, NBA basketball drills, when I was 14. So he kind of has inside information on what I like to do because he taught me most of the stuff.” - Kobe Bryant, speaking about Tom Thibodeau
High praise right there from arguably the most skilled offensive player and complete player in the NBA right now. Remember Thibodeau was an assistant coach under John Lucas for a couple years with the Sixers and in that time he and young Kobe bounded in the off-seasons when Kobe would workout with the Sixers and Thibodeau would put in extra time working with Bryant.
The other case is regarding Yao Ming when Thibodeau was in Houston. Everyone was quick to credit Patrick Ewing for Yao’s development when in reality it was Thibodeau who started working with Yao individually at the end of the 2004-2005 season. Every time Yao was working out Thibodeau was there. It went as far as Tom spending two summers in China with Yao to continue his development. If you watch much of Yao you can see the improvements in his game both technically and with his ability to read situations better and react. Yao became more dominant and consistent immediately after starting to work with Thibodeau.
I also read that he worked with Larry Johnson, Allen Houston and Latrell Sprewell while on those Knicks teams.
I think this guy’s defensive reputation has overshadowed the belief by many in NBA circles that Thibodeau is more than just a defensive coordinator. Seems he would be better categorized as a good, well-rounded coach with a personal passion for defense and strong ability to not only teach it but get players to execute it at a high level.
Number 5: I think everything I’ve already written answers this question. We will get a hard working, intense and smart coach ready to lead his own team. A guy known for getting multi-millionaires to do stuff many don’t want or like to give max effort doing – play sound, tough defense. A guy that will demand effort, have a strong attention to detail and hold guys accountable for executing his plan. A guy with a track record for building relationships with good players and helping them develop their all-around game.
On defense Thibodeau brings a strategy sorely lacking on the Sixers. That of sound, tried-and-true defensive fundamentals with an attacking style. What you see with the Celtics and even looking back at those Rocket and Knicks teams are that of 5 guys with smooth and perfectly timed rotations after overloading the strong side to not only take away penetration but deter players from even attempting to drive. Contesting every shot is key because his teams force a lot of jumpers. Then finishing off the possession by controlling the defensive boards (Sixers were 26th in the NBA in defensive rebounding last season and 23rd the season before. Boston was 3rd and 8th the last two years).
Playing tough, physical defense and swarming the ball when it enters the middle of the floor in order to force the ball to stay on the perimeter in good defensive locations – the corners and wings foul line extended or below. Also pick and roll defense, something the Sixers play none of. When you watch Boston and Cleveland you see their bigs jumping really high and hedging strong and square on ball screens suppressing the offensive player’s attack by making him go laterally or backwards. All while being able to recover to the screener effectively. How badly do we need that?!?
A few more quotes to finish this up:
“Tom will come up with a defensive scheme that we’ve never heard before, and he’ll say it like we’ve been talking about it all year. But he makes sure we’re all on the same page with it. So, he’s definitely kept us keyed in.” – Ray Allen
“If you watch the games, Thibodeau is right on top of every player. You can tell by the players’ response, not only do they understand it, but that this is the way it has to be done.” - Jack Ramsay
“I’ve been facing his defenses here for some time and they’re tough – very, very tough. Every single team he’s been on has had great strategies and physical defenses.” – Kobe Bryant
“Thib has been the best thing that happened to us.” Kendrick Perkins
“He gave us a system to believe in. From Day One, he said, ‘This is how we’re going to guard.’ And once you put in a system, if you get all the guys to believe in it and trust in it, it means everything. Whereas in the past when we got young players and we put a system in, we didn’t always get it, we trusted in Tom’s system from Day One and we all committed to him.” – Paul Pierce
There is my case for Tom Thibodeau as the Sixers next coach. Have I sold you?
More than anything else this was to get more information in your hands about the next candidate so you can come to your own conclusion on the best option for the Sixers next head coach because I think there were a lot of questions about him.