In 2008, the Bulls endured a horrendous campaign where Head Coach Scott Skiles was dismissed in the middle of the season, being replaced by inept assistant coach Jim Boylan. Ben Wallace was having a terrible year that lead the Bulls to trade him and the team stunk, finishing with a 33-49 record.
The Bulls were fortunate enough to land the number one pick in the draft, where they would later pick some guy named Derrick Rose who happens to be tearing up the NBA as we speak.
The Bulls though would make a costly error shortly before drafting Rose. On June 11, 2008, the Bulls announced that they hired Vinny Del Negro as the team’s 17th head coach. After getting shunned by Mike D’Antoni and seeing Doug Collins back out of the job after practically being hired, the Bulls went with Del Negro. Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau was one of the hot name head coaching candidates that summer but the Bulls didn’t even interview him.
Del Negro had no coaching experience of any kind before joining the Bulls but he managed to get the team to the playoffs in two seasons with .500 records. Despite making the playoffs in both seasons, the Bulls were far from being a contender. Del Negro made questionable decisions and the team often looked confused on the floor. Del Negro also clashed with Bulls management that would lead to Del Negro getting into a physical confrontation with then-Bulls General Manager John Paxson.
Del Negro was out at the end of the 2010 season and the Bulls were in the market for a new head coach yet again. This time around, the Bulls gave themselves an opportunity to interview Thibodeau. Thibodeau was still an assistant coach on Doc Rivers’ staff with the Celtics. The Bulls however seemed to be skeptical about hiring another guy with no head coaching experience but decided to speak with Thibodeau anyway during last year’s playoffs.
Whatever skepticism there was, it vanished quickly and the Bulls signed Thibodeau to a three year contract.
The Bulls freed up a lot of money to use in last summer’s free agency bonanza, hoping to land Dwyane Wade, LeBron James or Chris Bosh. When those three frauds went to Miami, (they’re frauds because each of them had no intentions of signing with any other team except for Miami and they foolishly led other teams, including the Bulls, to believe that they were testing the market.) the Bulls reshaped their roster by signing guys like Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Kurt Thomas, Keith Bogans and C.J. Watson.
The Bulls now had some deeper talent to go along with team veterans like Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. The Bulls were a poor defensive team during Del Negro’s two seasons and Thibodeau implemented a new defensive system that made the Bulls one of the best defensive teams this year. Not to mention, he did something crucial this year that Del Negro didn’t do during his time with the Bulls…he actually coached the team.
Derrick Rose has become a superstar under Thibodeau’s watch, which most of the credit goes to Rose’s talent but some must be given to Thibodeau because Rose had the luxury of being managed by a guy who could coach effectively and put Rose in a better position to succeed.
The Bulls probably wouldn’t have won 62 games without Rose but the Bulls probably wouldn’t have won 62 games without Thibodeau either.
Currently, the Bulls are one game away from sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. The three games that the Bulls have won thus far haven’t come easy but somehow the team found ways to win them. This is a credit to the players and the coach…Would the Bulls be up three games to none if Del Negro was still coaching? Would they even be the number one seed if Del Negro was still the coach? I certainly don’t think so.
Who knows what would have happened if the Bulls had hired Thibodeau back in 2008. It doesn’t really matter. John Paxson, who is now the Vice President of Basketball Operations and Gar Forman, who is now the General Manager, have made up for the mistake in hiring Del Negro. For the first time in a long time, the Bulls’ management are putting the right pieces together with the right coach and building a roster that can win for many years.