Thompson: Quade Could Be Chicago’s Next Thibodeau

By Brad Thompson–

While pitchers and catchers start practicing in sunny Arizona and Wrigley Field starts thawing out from the blizzard, hope springs eternal for Cubs fans.

The Cubs offseason had its share of moves and deals, but none loom larger than the decision to hire Mike Quade instead of Ryne Sandberg.

Quade’s task is to resurrect one of baseball’s most troubled and beloved franchises. Cubs fans got a snapshot of Quade’s style and potential during his stint as interim manager last season. His grounded approach and steady demeanor remind me of another Chicago coaching newcomer – Tom Thibodeau.

Now I understand that comparing a baseball manager to a basketball coach may seem like apples to oranges, but it’s Quade’s attitude and mindset that likens him to Thibodeau for me.

Neither guy comes from prolific professional playing career. Quade was an infielder drafted out of the University of New Orleans, but never made it beyond Single-A. Thibodeau’s was a team captain at Division III Salem State University and entered the coaching ranks immediately after that.

Both coaches paid their dues and waited to catch their big break. Thibodeau spent 20 years as an assistant coach on the NBA sidelines. Quade spent 19 years in the minor leagues amassing over 1,200 wins as a manager.

Each coach has been labeled as a “players” coach.

Heck, even their hairstyles are similar.

And probably the most important attribute they share is the respect of their players. The Bulls bought into Coach Thibodeau’s defensive philosophy, which is a main reason why they are 36-16 and sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference. Rose and company’s improved defense is allowing the second fewest points per game in the league at 92.3.

Quade had a 24-13 record after he took over for Lou Piniella. And it’s easy to point out that the season was over for the Cubs and the games were meaningless, but what can’t be argued is that Quade gained the respect of his players.

Pitcher Ryan Dempster shared how he feels about Quade.

“He did a really good job of communicating with us, and we all enjoyed playing for him,’’ Dempster said. ‘‘We were all big advocators of him.”

The businesslike approach that Quade and Thibodeau share has led to the respect from the players. They shy away from the spotlight and remain focused on improving the team. They weren’t the big name hires that might come with a position in a market like Chicago. They don’t have proven track records or accomplishments on the biggest stage, but for Cubs and Bulls fans they might be just what’s needed.

Sure the Bulls success this season can be tied to the players acquired in free agency during the summer or the unbelievable play of Derrick Rose, but the Bulls were without Boozer for a month and Noah missed the next two months. All this points to the fact that hiring Thibodeau was the most significant move the Bulls made in the offseason.

Cubs fans are hoping the same is true for their team. An improved pitching staff and lineup should lead to more wins, but if Quade’s approach can lead the Cubs to the kind of success Thibodeau’s had with the Bulls, then Chicago will not only have a winner on the North Side, but a foundation to build on.

Do you agree with Brad? Post your comments below.

brad thompson bio pic Thompson: Quade Could Be Chicagos Next Thibodeau

Brad Thompson

Brad M. Thompson, a former college football player and coach, made his return to the Midwest in 2009 after fighting wildfires out West. He earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and covers the Big Ten Conference and Chicago sports. Find more of Brad’s blogs here.

  • Jake from da Burbs

    I really dont see a clear connection here. Yes Thibs and Quade are lifers in their respective sports but they’re really not all that much the same. I think its too early to make any judgment of their “attitude or mindset” being similar either.

    Thib’s came to the Bulls as a ballyhooed assistant coach who has a strong defensive philosophy. He commands respect of all the players of his team because he knows what he is doing and he has had success at the highest level in the league, helping Doc Rivers and the Celtics win the championship.

    Quade is primarily a little-known lifelong minor league baseball manager who hasn’t done anything of significance at the major league level. Yes, Quade led the Cubs to a nice finish at the end of a miserable season where the pressure was off and rode that to a starting gig. Good for him, but it didn’t prove much.

    My main issue is that we still dont know what type of manager Quade is. We dont know his principles and how and if he’ll manage personalities. We dont know about his in-game management skills in pressure situations or if he can manage a pitching staff. Unlike Thibs, Quade doesn’t seem to be known specifically for anything. He’s not an offensive or a pitching guru. He’s not known for his cerebral approach to the game nor is he known for being a rah-rah motivational “go-team!” guy.

    I know people will point to the Starlin Castro benching last season in proving that he will be better at stressing fundamentals but I really didn’t see any change in the way Soriano or Ramirez played either. Its easy to call out the Castros and Colvin’s of the world but I’ll be waiting to see if he benches Soriano when he loafs to 1st base on a deep fly ball that ends up being a double. Thibs has shown that he doesn’t care who you are, if you’re not playing his way, he will take you out. Its one thing to preach that message to James Johnson, its another to preach it to Carlos Boozer but Thbs has done that.

    Hey… maybe Quade will be alright. But to compare Quade to Thibs right now is a stretch, even if you are comparing his “attitude and mindset.” There are still too many unknowns and things that Quade has to prove to reach Thbs level.

  • Patrice

    Thompson makes some good points here. Let’s hope that the characteristics they share lead to an improved Cubs team.

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