BOSTON — As Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau shared a Saturday night dinner, conversation shifted to Thibodeau’s decision during the 2010 NBA Finals.
Then Rivers’ associate head coach as the Celtics faced the Lakers in Los Angeles, Thibodeau held public offers from the Bulls and Hornets and a quieter yet still concrete offer from the Nets to become head coach.
Multiple reports at the time indicated the Hornets’ offer carried more years and money than the Bulls’. But Rivers shed new light on Thibodeau’s decision on Sunday.
“You can ask him: He was leaning toward one,” Rivers recalled. “I actually grabbed him by the shoulders and said, ‘Are you kidding me? You get a chance to coach Derrick Rose and you’re thinking about another job? Are you freaking nuts?’
“We laugh about it now. I literally said, ‘If it’s a penny to go there and it’s $10 million to go the other place, I’m going to the penny.’ Because in the other one, you’ll be allowed to coach. And you’ll be allowed to win, which will allow you to coach more. He made a great choice.”
Thibodeau eventually signed the Bulls’ two-year deal with a team option. The option hasn’t been exercised, but that’s considered a formality.
“Coaching that (Rose) guy would be like coaching (Kevin) Garnett, I would assume,” Rivers said.
Rivers compared Thibodeau to Patriots coach Bill Belichick in that he gets players to buy in despite a public perception of being gruff.
“I think that was part of the reason he wasn’t hired because they thought he wouldn’t get along with anybody,” Rivers said. “Thibs just works. And he expects everyone else to work as hard as him, which is impossible. But he’s a terrific personality. And his players see that.”