With news that Monty Williams has been fired by the Pelicans and speculation about Tom Thibodeau’s job rampant, the rumors have begun swirling that Thibodeau is headed for the Big Easy to take over an Anthony Davis-led team.
The rest of the NBA should be terrified.
Tom Thibodeau would be the perfect coach for the Pelicans. The team was poorly coached by Monty Williams, and Thibodeau addresses every need that Williams could not.
Somehow, the Pelicans were a bad defense last year (107.3 DRtg, 22nd in league). Their poor defense was the primary reason for not doing better in the Western Conference.
Hiring Thibodeau would fix this problem immediately. In his five years coaching the Bulls, Thibodeau has never sported a defense outside the top 11 and has finished either 1st or 2nd in DRtg in three of those five years.
Thibodeau was also an amazing defensive assistant for a number of years. After Doc Rivers brought him onto the Celtics, the team went from 16th to 1st in defensive rating. He also helped Jeff Van Gundy run top-10 defenses in New York and Houston.
The personnel is there for Thibodeau to work with. In Chicago, his defense was anchored by talented, mobile big men. Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Omer Asik led Chicago to a No. 1 and No. 2 defense in 2011 and 2012. The Pelicans are rumored to look to resign Asik, and Davis is one of the only players in the league that could be better than either Noah or Gibson defensively. Thibodeau would have the big men that his defensive schemes need, and history shows he would make it work.
Young Player Development
Before Tom Thibodeau came to the Bulls, Luol Deng was an overpaid role player, Jimmy Butler was a rookie nobody had ever heard of, Joakim Noah was an inconsistent and underdeveloped former lottery pick and Rose was a fringe All-Star.
Under Thibodeau, Deng became a fan favorite, a two-time all-star and was named to an All-Defense team. Butler won the NBA Most Improved Player award, made an All-Star team, and was named to an All-Defense team. Noah won a Defensive Player of the Year Award, was a two-time all-star, three-time All-NBA Defense team, fourth in MVP voting, and named to the All-NBA first team. Rose became the best player in the league.
Like those teams from a few years ago, the Pelicans have some young and very promising players. People forget that Tyreke Evans is only 25 years old, the same age Deng was when Thibodeau molded him into a two-time All-Star. Anthony Davis is only 22, Jrue Holiday is 24. The team was the 7th-youngest in the league. Thibodeau could help these guys become the next Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, or Joakim Noah. Thibodeau took a 22-year-old All Star in Rose and turned him into the MVP of the league. Could he do the same for the 22-year-old Davis? Davis certainly has the talent.
Holiday, in particular, presents a very exciting opportunity for Thibodeau. Thibs has been nicknamed the Point Guard Whisperer for the amazing production he’s gotten out of the position. He has a knack for working with ball-dominant guards like Holiday. Derrick Rose transformed into an MVP under Thibodeau and he’s also turned scrap heap guards like John Lucas III, C.J. Watson, Nate Robinson, DJ Augustin and Aaron Brooks into useful NBA players. Holiday could see massive leaps in his development under Thibodeau if he buys in.
Instilling a Winning Culture
Tom Thibodeau took over a .500 Bulls team from Vinny Del Negro and turned it instantly into a winner. In his first year, the team jumped 21 wins. Del Negro ran the team in a way players described as vacationing at a Club Med. He was a players-first coach. Thibodeau is much more of a workaholic, hard-nosed coach. Players will catch him at 2 a.m. at the practice facility watching film on a daily basis. He is a basketball lifer, once dumping his fiancee because he claimed that “there’s no life in my room for a woman if I’m going to be a basketball coach.”
Similarly, Thibodeau would be taking over for a coach in Monty Williams that was a player’s coach. The players respected him and he was by all accounts a good man, but he was young and raw as a coach. At the time of his hire, he was the youngest coach in the league at 38 years old.
Despite winning 45 games in a tough Western Conference, the team underperformed in Williams’ tenure there. He went 173-221 in five years; in the same span, Thibodeau was 255-139. Despite all the criticism that people have levied against Thibodeau, one thing you can’t dispute is that the man just keeps on winning. That should be music to the Pelicans’ ears.
There is no better coach for the Pelicans, and no better team for Thibodeau to take over. The marriage makes sense, and for Thibodeau, basketball is his marriage, his life and his world.