Coaching Methods Key For Bulls Next Season


After five seasons with the Bulls, the Chicago Bulls finally fired Tom Thibodeau on Thursday.

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Now that Thibodeau is out, there is plenty of room for improvement for the Bulls to get back to the top of the East, depending on who management hires as their organization’s next coach.

One of the primary issues that the Bulls have had in recent years, is the teams’ ability to remain healthy over the entire stretch of an 82-game season, something the team has been unable to do since the 2010-11 season.

The Bulls season ended in similar fashion against Cleveland, in a hard-fought, six-game series that was ultimately decided based on attrition, rather than ability, with Joakim Noah less than 100 percent, and Pau Gasol missing Games 4 and 5 with a left hamstring injury.

Whether it’s Derrick Rose and his series of knee injuries, or whether it’s Noah and his knee/foot issues, the Chicago Bulls always seem to be a topic of discussion whenever injuries are involved. This season, you never got the sense of urgency from the players. For a Bulls team that lost in their last two playoff appearances due to health, one would assume that the Chicago Bulls would have been motivated in a year where that they were the favorite, according to many analysts, such as TNT’s Charles Barkley.

During the regular season, the Chicago Bulls lost 16 games to non-playoff teams. The most humiliating losses for the Bulls began on Jan. 7, a blowout at home against the Utah Jazz, in a game where the Jazz never trailed, and simply out-classed the Bulls in their own building. There were other notable losses that simply shouldn’t have happened. For example: A loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 29 and a 101-91 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Mar. 13, a game that the Bulls blew a 19-point lead at halftime.

Judging by these losses, it’s safe to say that this Bulls team struggled with their focus all season. Many reports were published, stating that Thibodeau worked his players too hard. In an article written on, former Bull Richard Hamilton stated that Thibodeau worked the team too hard in practice, stating that he never had to ice his knees after a practice in his career.

Maybe this explains why the Bulls suffered through horrible defeats, and maybe this explains why the team simply didn’t have the energy every night that was necessary to win on a consistent basis. To lose 16 games to teams that didn’t advance to the playoffs, is alarming and probably explains why the team has only played 19 of 82 regular season games with their entire starting lineup in tact. The team occasionally had games where they occasionally just didn’t show up; like Games 4 and 5 of the Milwaukee Bucks series, and Games 2 and 6 of the series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There has been reports that the current Bulls players also felt that coach Thibodeau didn’t give them enough rest, and was too abrasive in his coaching methods. On January 21st, Chris Sheridan reported that Thibodeau was losing his locker room. There were comments from Derrick Rose, saying everyone on the team, from the players to the coach, weren’t on the same page. There was even a Bulls practice that was canceled, and a team meeting that followed right after a 108-94 blowout loss to Cleveland.

There was also a game this year where Rose had to walk up to Thibodeau as he was coaching, and tell him to give Nikola Mirotic a rest. Much have been made of the Bulls’ inconsistencies that occurred during their season, and how much the team lacked focus, and drive, but maybe in the end, the coaching methods prevented the players from approaching the season with a sense of urgency.

In November of 2012,  San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was fined $250,000 for resting his players; sending his starters home, during a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat.

Popovich has won five NBA Championships, and he’s smart enough to know that with the NBA schedule constructed the way it is today; three games played in four nights during periods of the NBA season requires resting your players to maintain a healthy roster all the way through the regular season and postseason.

If a fan, journalist, or analyst would placed themselves in the Bulls players’ position, where you had to endure a rigorous Thibodeau practice right before an NBA game, and you played as many as 35 minutes per game (Pau Gasol) at age 34, then you would expect be outplayed by the opposition. Rose has suffered through three knee surgeries in his career, and his minutes increased from October ’14 to February ’15 from 23 minutes per game to 32 minutes per game. Noah had knee surgery last May to his left knee, and Mike Dunleavy will be 35 years old in September.

The Bulls’ lineup not only has age on it, it also has players that have become accustomed to multiple injuries in their careers When you take all of Thibodeau’s practices (literally) into account, those facts should paint a clearer picture in our minds of how difficult it was for the Chicago Bulls to even find the energy to perform every night, and winning those games must have been even more difficult.

During the run to six titles in eight years that the Bulls had during the 1990s, they didn’t just win with their starters, there were role players such as Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler that came in and contributed to a level where the starters didn’t have to do as much throughout the game. Maybe the players were ready to win it all this year, but maybe their bodies couldn’t have held up to the intense coaching methods of their head coach.

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