By David Schuster–
When it comes to the NBA there’s always a learning curve for rookies and that same learning curve applies to first time coaches. Enter Tom Thibodeau who is in his first year as head coach after 20 plus years as an assistant. The Bulls new bench leader has already proven to be incredibly organized with his schemes and practices but the in game coaching needs some work. Through the first handful of games Thibodeau has already come under criticism for his substitution patterns. He also has been criticized for leaving players too long on the sidelines.
In Thursday night’s loss to the Knicks, Thibodeau attempted to send a message to his team by benching most of the starters in the 4th quarter. His initial reasoning was sound as those starters found themselves down by 18 with 9 minutes to go. The subs then slowly cut that lead down and when Kyle Korver hit a 3 from the side the margin was 9 with almost 5 minutes left. New York quickly called time and the entire building fully expected Thibodeau to reinsert Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng to take one last run at a possible victory. But Thibodeau, perhaps too stubornly, kept his 3 stars on the bench and the Knicks prevailed by 8.
Thibodeau clearly had an eye on a back to back situation as the Bulls were playing the next night in Boston but his first responsibility is to try and win any game at any time. By not reinserting his best 3 players he ended up sending a message to his team but it was the wrong message. Noah and Deng took the high road after the game and said they understood but they clearly were biting their lips and carefully watching their words. Rose meanwhile was no where to be seen and you can bet was confused at the very least. Do you think Kobe Bryant would be sitting on the bench in that situation? Heck, Bryant would have just checked himself into the game. Competitive players and superstars don’t want to sit in those situations and Rose shouldn’t have in that one.
Hopefully Thibodeau will learn from the other night because the quickest way to lose a team is to not show your players that you are always trying to win at all costs.