New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau had a homecoming Wednesday, returning to Chicago to face the Bulls, the team he managed five seasons from 2010 to 2015.
Thibodeau’s first job as an NBA head coach was with the Bulls, so he was sure to see some familiar faces before kickoff.
But Thibodeau probably didn’t expect one of his former players to walk through the doors of the press conference room during his pregame press conference.
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Center Joakim Noah, a key player during Thibodeau’s success in Chicago, walked into the room. And the coach shot his former student.
“Late as usual,” Thibodeau said when Noah walked in about seven minutes after the questioning began.
When all the reporters answered his questions, Noah decided to have the last word.
“I have a question. So you’re going to Derrick’s [Rose’s] wedding, and you’re not coming to mine,” Noah joked.
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Smiling, Thibodeau replied, “Next question!” Next, the former player and the coach embraced.
The Bulls finished no less than second in their division with Thibodeau leading the team. In his first season in 2010-11, Thibodeau’s Bulls won 62 games as they advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, where they fell to the “Big Three” of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.
Despite never having a losing season in Chicago, Thibodeau moved to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 2016-17 season.
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While Thibodeau was in town, Noah had his best years as an NBA player, averaging 10.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and under 1.5 blocks per game. He also made back-to-back All-Star Game appearances from 2013 to 2015 during that stretch.
Today, Thibodeau still coaches Derrick Rose, who was his best player with the Bulls and who Noah referenced with his question. Rose won the 2010-11 MVP award after dropping 25 points per game in his age-22 season.
But that was the past. Thibodeau is focused on his Knicks now, looking to get them back to the playoffs like he did two seasons ago.
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It’s always nice to see friends from the past though, which is why the usually stoic Thibodeau was smiling when Noah walked into the room.