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Mike Thibodeau

USA Prepares For Venezuela And Thibodeau Returns To Familiar Territory

  • Author:
    Steve Silverman
  • Date:
    Jul 28, 2016

  • Chicago, Illinois



A familiar face hit the floor at the United Center as the USA Men's National Team continued with its Olympic preparations Thursday. Assistant coach Tom Thibodeau was back in his old haunts as he helped USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski get his team ready for the upcoming Summer Games in Rio.

Thibodeau was head coach of the Chicago Bulls for five seasons, and he led the team to a 255-139 record over that span. His coaching career with the Bulls came to an end after the 2014-15 season, but he will be back on the NBA sidelines this year as he takes over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He has positive memories of his time in Chicago and the work that his team did in the United Center. “It is great to be back at the United Center and work with this team,” Thibodeau said. "There were way more positives than negatives. My focus is to move forward and to not look back.”

Neither Thibodeau, his former player Jimmy Butler nor any of the other members of the USA squad were overly concerned about the upcoming NBA season. It’s all about doing everything they can to help the USA prepare to win the gold medal next month.

The spectacular individual talent on the USA roster that includes Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Butler means  that the Americans will be dominant favorites every time they take the court in Rio and should bring home the gold.

However, there were no assumptions from Thibodeau or any of the players about how the Olympic tournament will play out. The only thing they know is that it will take significant effort to live up to the expectations and that nothing will be given to them.

Thibodeau has long been known for his overall preparation and his ability to get his players to a peak level on the defensive end of the court.

He has liked what he has seen from his players in both of those areas. “That’s the thing about the great players we have here,” Thibodeau explained. “They are here to be their best and play their best, and I see guys who are working hard because they have a goal of winning for their country.

“There is no doubt they are motivated and it plays out every time they step on the court. I see great team basketball on both ends. It’s a tremendous five-man offensive effort, and they are working just as hard on the defensive side. That’s what it takes to win on all levels of basketball, and these players know it full well.”

Krzyzewski had some fun with his assistant coach as he photo-bombed Thibodeau’s media session Thursday afternoon. “I’m here because I want to hear what this guy is saying about me,” Krzyzewski joked.

However, it was clear how much Krzyzewski depends on Thibodeau. “I like to prepare before every practice and game, and I know how much he prepares,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s great to be able to discuss things with him and get his perspective because I know he’s going to see a lot and help this team to play its best.

“He also helps quite a bit because of his NBA background. My background is obviously in college but I have to speak to these players in NBA terms. Tom is able to provide me with a lot of that language and terminology and he can make it easy for me.”

There are few secrets about coaches in the NBA, and while Butler played under Thibodeau for the first four seasons of his career with the Bulls and knows his coaching style and personality, the rest of Butler’s teammates know Thibs’ style and preparation well.

Green says there’s an intensity to Thibodeau’s style that helps him get the message across.

“When it comes to coaching defense, it’s so obvious that he is one of the best in the business,” Green said. “He is letting us know our defensive responsibilities and he makes sure each player knows what he is supposed to do on the defensive end.

“But it doesn’t stop there. With Tom, it’s all about team defense so we all know each other’s responsibilities. It’s not about each individual, it’s about following the team concept, and Tom makes sure we all know that.

Durant is one of the foremost offensive weapons in the game, and after averaging 27.4 points per game during the first eight years of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder (although his first season was in Seattle before the team relocated), Durant had never played under Thibodeau before.

“I knew all about him, however,” Durant said. “Every time we played against his team, I could always hear him calling out their defensive sets and trying to let his team know what to expect. He is a very good coach and he is very prepared. He is a coach who knows the game and knows his business.”

Thibodeau is helping to prepare the United States for the Olympics, and in the short term, that means getting them ready to play Venezuela Friday night at the United Center.

However, the main goal is Olympic gold, and the U.S. team and Thibodeau can take another step in that direction with another great effort at the United Center.


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