Greg Bishop of the New York Times writes about the life of Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, and how he got to where he is today. Coach Thibodeau’s dream to become an NBA head coach became true two years ago when he became the head coach of the Chicago Bulls.
Ever since the first coach forced players to run wind sprints, the profession for grown-ups who work in track suits has produced an inordinate share of the obsessed, the eccentric and the paranoid. Consider Thibodeau at the extreme. One of his former players, Nate Bryant, described the way Thibodeau approached his craft as an “addiction, without question.”
And the most prominent manifestation of that addiction, as described by two dozen friends, family members, former players and associates, always comes back to video. Every person Thibodeau ever met, it seems, has a tale of the tape.
First story: when Bryant arrived early at Salem State in the early 1980s, his dorm was not ready. He stayed in Thibodeau’s apartment, which was mostly empty, save for a couch, a TV and a VCR. The athletic department did not install its own video system for 10 years. In that time, Thibodeau watched many hundreds of hours of tape. And perhaps even a few movies.
Fifth story: An assistant at Thibodeau’s alma mater, New Britain High School, went to visit him at Harvard, where he was an assistant after leaving Salem State. He could hardly see Thibodeau behind the tapes stacked atop his desk.
Fourteenth story: when one of his Harvard players visited Thibodeau in Minnesota, where he first entered the N.B.A. as an assistant in 1989, the player found the refrigerator empty. The player and his wife went to a Timberwolves game, then returned to the apartment, where Thibodeau taught the player’s wife how to break down game film.
The player was Arne Duncan, now the secretary of education. He pushed Jerry Reinsdorf, the Bulls’ chairman, to interview and hire Thibodeau.
“This is his life,” Duncan said. “For better or worse, he doesn’t have a lot of other interests. Maybe he has no other interests.”