Tom Thibodeau could be a perfect assistant coach for Clippers


Apr 1, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts to a call during the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After the Chicago Bulls decided to go in another direction with their head coaching position by hiring Fred Hoiberg, former head coach Tom Thibodeau is officially available and on the market if another team is interested in adding his services. He’s currently taking some time out to step back from basketball, though, and has been enjoying the chance to relax and get healthy now that he isn’t swamped with the stress and pressure of being an NBA coach.

Thibodeau recently spoke with Steve Aschburner of to discuss his chance to enjoy the finer things in life and how he’s working on getting healthy. Although, that’s just the precursor to the rest of Aschburner’s report that Thibs has actually been visiting various head coaches around the league during his time off as well. One of them just so happens to be Los Angeles Clippers head coach and former colleague Doc Rivers:

"[Thibs] hit Charlotte over the weekend, spending a few days with his friend Steve Clifford as the Hornets coach readied his team for its imminent trip to China. Thibodeau was in San Antonio Tuesday as Gregg Popovich and the Spurs got underway. When the Los Angeles Clippers get back from their own trip to China, Thibodeau will hook up with pal Doc Rivers for a stretch in L.A."

After working in the NBA since 1990, Thibodeau has become a house hold name as not only a coach, but as a defensive wizard when it comes to getting the most from his players at that end of the floor. So, bearing in mind that Thibs will be meeting up with Doc following the Clippers’ preseason trip to China, it’s a good chance for the Clippers’ head coach to reconnect with his former colleague to keep contact in case there’s some possibility Thibs could join the team in the future.

From 2007 to 2010, Thibodeau and Rivers worked together with the Boston Celtics, with the former operating as an assistant coach and the latter leading the way as head coach. They didn’t do too badly in their time together either, as they had two trips to the NBA finals while winning a championship in 2008.

Dec 11, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers waves to the crowd after a video presentation about his career with the Boston Celtics during the first quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Together, they not only helped lead the Big 4 of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo to a ring, but they also helped turn the Celtics into one of the best (if not the best) defensive team in their 2008 championship season. In that year, the Celtics easily recorded the best defensive rating in the league (98.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) while forcing opponents to shoot a league worst 41.9 percent from the floor — no other team even recorded an opponents field goal percentage of less than 43.3 (per Basketball Reference).

On top of that, Garnett was even named Defensive Player of the Year.

With their elite offensive firepower and incredible defense, it’s not surprising the Celtics won 66 games and a championship in ’08.

Then, when moving on to become the head coach of the Bulls in the 2010-11 season, Thibodeau immediately made his mark be becoming Coach of the Year as Chicago earned a league best 62 wins and a trip to the Eastern conference finals. With Thibodeau helping the Bulls emerge on defense, and a Derrick Rose who was actually healthy and became MVP because of it, they established themselves as a force in the East. Behind Thibs’ defensive approach, the Bulls also led the league in defensive rating (100.3) and opponent shooting percentage with 43 percent (per Basketball Reference).

So, seeing as the Clippers only ranked a dead average 15th in defensive efficiency last season, the expertise and tough defensive mindset of Thibodeau could certainly help them improve. Just the way he could help establish better pick-and-roll defense and developing correct player movement and rotation on defense could help the Clippers become a more complete team at both ends of the floor.

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There’s no question that Thibodeau will find his way into the NBA again as either an assistant or head coach, but considering the Clippers’ areas of weakness, he could be a perfect fit in Los Angeles.

However, there’s obviously no way we can project that Doc and Thibs will reunite to try and lead the Clippers toward a championship in the near future. Yet, the fact they’re staying in contact and meeting up gives Doc a chance to keep the defensive mind of Thibodeau on his team’s radar. Plus, with teams such as the Golden State Warriors adding valuable minds and experience to their staffing units with the hiring of Future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash as a part-time player development consultant, the Clippers need to keep up in every way possible with the tough Western conference.

For a Clippers team who struggled defensively at times last season who are entering 2015-16 with so many new faces, the defensive knowledge and structure that Tom Thibodeau has to offer would be exactly what they need from an assistant coach.

Hopefully he’s interested in making a move from Chicago to L.A. at some point in the near future.

Next: Los Angeles Clippers: Fixing Lance Stephenson