The NBA continues to remember the legacy that Kobe Bryant left. He touched so many people on the court and off. New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau had a conversation with Bryant not too long before he passed.
Even though Bryant never played with Thibodeau, he respected him as a coach and person as he did with so many other people.
Tom Thibodeau has had success in the NBA as a coach
Thibodeau began started his coaching career in 1981 at his college alma mater Salem State College. He was an assistant coach there from 1981 to 1984. In 1984, he was named the head coach and spent one season in that position before became an assistant coach at Harvard. Thibodeau spent four years at Harvard and then broke into the NBA.
His first NBA position was an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves. After his time in Minnesota, he bounced around from different teams in the league serving as an assistant coach. In 2007, he was named associate head coach of the Boston Celtics. Thibodeau played an important role in helping the Celtics have one of the best defenses in the league. During the 2007-08 season, the Celtics were one of the top teams in the league.
The Celtics went on to win the 2008 NBA Finals defeating the LA Lakers. With the help of Thibodeau’s coaching, the Celtics were able to contain Bryant throughout the series.
Tom Thibodeau getting his first head coaching job in the NBA
After his time in Boston, Thibodeau interviewed with the Chicago Bulls for their vacant head coaching position in 2010. A few weeks after the interview, he was named the new Bulls’ head coach. In his first season as head coach, Thibodeau had a lot of success. The Bulls finished the regular season with a 62-20 record. Thibodeau tied the record for most wins by a rookie head coach and was named the NBA Coach of the Year. He led the Bulls to their first 50-win season and first division title since Michael Jordan was a part of the team. The Bulls lost to the Miami Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.
The next season Thibodeau continued to have success as a head coach. In March of 2012, he became the fastest coach in NBA history to earn over 100 career victories. He did so in 130 games. The Bulls continued to remain the top team in the east and went into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. Unfortunately, star player Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the first round, and the Bulls lost to the Philadelphia 76ers. Thibodeau guided the Bulls to the playoffs each year that he was head coach.
After five seasons in Chicago, he became the head coach for the Timberwolves at the start of the 2016-17 season. In his first season with Minnesota, he suffered his first losing season as head coach. The next season the Timberwolves made the playoffs losing in the first round, and during the 2018-19 season, Thibodeau was fired 40 games into the season.
Tom Thibodeau talked about his conversation with Kobe Bryant before he passed away
Thibodeau coached against Bryant on numerous occasions. The most noted time was when Thibodeau was with the Celtics and came up with the right game plan to stop Bryant in the 2008 NBA Finals. Thibodeau also coached against Bryant during his time with Chicago. He and Bryant continued to remain in contact after Bryant retired from the league. In an interview with Steve Serby of the New York Post, Thibodeau talked about the final conversation he had with Bryant.
“Someone had texted me, and it was in disbelief. I still don’t want to believe it,” Thibodeau said about Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing. “The irony is probably about a week before, 10 days before, he had texted me, we were talking about the team he was coaching with his daughter’s team. I had been going out to LA quite a bit to spend time with Doc [Rivers], and he asked me when I was coming out again, we were gonna get together.”
Thibodeau remembers how competitive Bryant was, and just like so many others, he wishes that he was still here.