Hard-Nosed Tom

Tom Thibodeau, the former Chicago Bulls coach, the current president and coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, is the lead man for one of the youngest teams in the NBA. The defense-oriented coach is looking to cultivate and refine the Wolves core so they can advance into playoff contention in the next couple of years and rewrite their past history of losing and postseason droughts.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, and Kris Dunn are players who need leadership. Whipping them into shape with his tough love so they are a continual postseason threat because of how they play defense is the Thibodeau challenge.

The numbers: the Timberwolves ranked 27th in defensive efficiency in the 2015-16 NBA season, while the woeful, tanking Philadelphia 76ers ranked 25th.

Minnesota is in desperate need of a defensive overhaul, transitioning towards a strict and stringent defense.

Thibodeau’s defense, even with the X’s and O’s, comes down to a simple formula: force and contest a low-percentage shot by any means necessary. This can be as simple as draping a shooter with two men, to pushing players away from the post.

Thibodeau treats the opponent’s offense as adjustable chess pieces, teaching his players to bully and maneuver the offense into uncomfortable positions. Incessant defense, combined with the coach’s IQ, leads to results. There is no surprise Thibodeau has established himself as one of, if not, the best defensive coach in the league.

Ever since he took over Vinny Del Negro’s coaching position in Chicago, leading the Bulls to a 65% W/L ratio in his regular season career, Thibodeau has been a  defensive guru. Before the Bulls, Thibodeau worked under Doc Rivers as the Boston Celtics defensive coach and assistant head coach during the magical 2007-08 run. Helping to contain Kobe Bryant, Thibodeau led the team to the best defensive rating and a championship. There was no question why the Chicago Bulls hired Thibodeau after his run with the Celtics.

The defensive guru propelled the Bulls into one of the scariest defensive teams of the past couple of years. Thibs garnered a <100 defensive rating for three out of the six years he was in Chicago. The other three years, Thibodeau’s defense ranked in the top ten.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Timberwolves allowed nearly 107 points per game (2015-16).

Tom Thibodeau is a proven defensive commodity who will remodel and refashion the horrific Wolves defense – especially the apathetic transition defense. Although the young core has enough energy and athleticism to run an offensive fast break, the team cannot defend in transition to save their lives. Smart defensive positioning, clogging passing lanes, abstaining from unnecessary fouls, and defensive rebounding are the name of the game for the tough-minded coach.

None of Thibs defensive schemes are revolutionary by any means. He did not reinvent the wheel. Guarding pick and rolls, halting baseline movements, and denying easy post passes are all commonplace in the modern league. However, it is his passion and intensity that drives these basics into game-winning strategies. It is the work the hard-nosed coach puts behind these plays. It is the belief he instills into his players. And now, with an impressionable, young team, Thibodeau can mold and shape the puppy litter into full-grown wolves.

With Thibodeau’s background and history to guide him, a defensive blueprint will propel the young core to become hounds on the floor. Combine the coach’s defensive scheme with his perpetual hustle ideology, and the product will be an unstoppable force in the Western Conference.

Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Kris Dunn are young athletes who will not physically degrade under the unrelenting worth ethic of Tom Thibodeau.

Perhaps he will instill the same defensive scheme into Karl-Anthony as he did with Kevin Garnett. Perhaps he will ingrain the same intensity into Kris Dunn as he did with Rajon Rondo. The possibilities are limitless for the Timberwolves under the tutelage of Tom Thibodeau.


photo via llananba