Breaking News: Bulls Get It Right [New Head Coach Tom Thibodeau and The "Buy-In" Factor Edition]
As July 1 approaches, the Bulls stand on the brink of a franchise-changing, nay, league-changing off-season. A few poorly-thought out decisions could send them plummeting into mediocrity to toil away as an also-ran in the East for years to come. The right decisions, well the right decisions could catapult the organization to the heights of NBA success for multiple seasons. The first step in this off-season, selecting a coach, could tank the whole effort. With Paxson, Forman, and Reinsdorf running the show, you never know what the result will be. Hell, it seems like they don’t know what the result will be either most of the time. This time, however, they finally got it right.
Coming off the Vinny Del Negro era, most people from the top of the organization down to the casual fan would say that the most important quality the new coach must have is head coaching experience. While I would agree that Vinny’s lack of experience definitely contributed to his flawed reign, that does not logically mean that someone with head coaching experience will automatically be good while someone without it will not. Take a look at all the available coaches with head coaching experience. Avery Johnson micromanaged his point guard so hard that the offense slowed to a crawl in Dallas. I don’t think handcuffing Rose is anyone’s idea of a good strategy. Mo Cheeks? Perhaps as an assistant, but his abilities as a head coach have never really amounted to much. Lawrence Frank, Eric Musselman, and even Dwayne Casey are all good names, but they have all underperformed with relatively talented rosters. And let’s be honest, Phil Jackson and Doug Collins just aren’t happening. Thibodeau is well-respected around the league. He has been an assistant coach for 18 years and while some say he may not have the personality to coach, his defensive system and ridiculous success implementing it will earn him the respect he needs.
See, the most important thing in sports for a coach is what I like to call the “Buy-In Factor” (trademark Stormin Norman Disciple 2010). The players on a team must buy in to whatever system the coach is pitching. It always amazes me that coaches like Bill Parcells or Jerry Sloan are such successful coaches at motivating their teams even though they are complete asshats to everyone. Who would want to play hard for those people? Are they really that great at pre-game speeches? The answer to that last question is no, they are not. What they do have, however, is a game plan that the players truly believe is better than the other team’s game plan. They believe that Jerry Sloan’s style of coaching or Urban Meyer’s crazy gimmick offense will give them the edge they need to win. That belief in the game plan gives the team confidence and confidence leads to victories.
Am I saying it doesn’t matter what the game plan is as long as the players believe in it? Absolutely not. In fact, most of the time the players choose to believe in it because of how good it is. For instance, Vinny had no system so he had nothing of real value to sell to the players. Thus they didn’t “Buy-In”. However nice a guy he may have been and however much the players may have liked him (Mo Cheeks is a great example of this), they didn’t believe they could win if they did what he said. That’s where Thibodeau has the huge edge. He has a defense the players will believe in. Take a look at what happened in Boston, they’ll think. If we listen to this guy, we can win. That will be enough to garner their respect and help lead this team to great new heights.
And if all that fails, at least he is represented by William Wesley and CAA, the same group that represents Lebron, Wade and Bosh. People can buy into a player as much as a system and getting one of those guys could cover up any holes in my “Buy-In” theory anyways.