Hours after the humiliation of a Game 1 obliteration, Thibodeau gathered these Bulls on Sunday morning for one of his blistering sermons from the pulpit. He challenged the Bulls with the fiercest of ferocity, and the crooked smile washing over his face late Monday night reflected the resounding response of his locker room.
As circumstances go, the Bulls' 90-82 victory over the Nets was one of Thibs' masterpieces, a Mona Lisa born of a crushing Game 1 loss, a beaten and broken-down roster getting buried in an avalanche of criticism and overnight obits. Some were so sure that Thibodeau had pushed these Bulls too hard, too far and they had nothing left for the playoffs.
For now, the MVP of these Bulls remains the rumpled, defensive visionary on the bench.
"Most guys, from Patrick Ewing to Yao [Ming] to [Kevin] Garnett, they want to be coached," Thibodeau told Yahoo! Sports. "They want to be pushed. In all my years in this, one thing has never changed: You win with serious, tough-minded players.
That never changes.
"That's the challenge now. Things are changing in the game. …Things are different. When you're putting a team together, I think of what [Bill] Belichick said: 'You're not collecting talent, you're building a team.'
As it turns out, Thibodeau is the rarest commodity in the NBA: an indisputable difference-maker on the bench. This is a players' league, but Thibodeau is easily the most underpaid commodity in the NBA. At $4 million per year, the big-market Bulls never need to go deep into luxury tax, because Thibodeau will find a way to win with almost whatever they give him.