New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau had a homecoming Wednesday, returning to Chicago to face the Bulls, the team he coached five seasons from 2010-2015.
Thibodeau’s first head coaching gig in the NBA was with the Bulls, so he was sure to see some familiar faces before tipoff.
But Thibodeau likely didn’t expect one of his former players to walk through the press conference room doors during his pregame presser.
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Center Joakim Noah, a key player during Thibodeau’s success in Chicago, waltzed into the room. And the coach took a shot at his former pupil.
“Late as usual,” Thibodeau said as Noah walked in about seven minutes after questioning had begun.
When all the reporters got their questions out, Noah decided to have the last say.
“I have a question. So you’re going to go to Derrick [Rose’s] wedding, and you’re not going to come to mine,” Noah joked.
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Smiling, Thibodeau responded, “Next question!” The ex-player and coach then embraced.
The Bulls finished no lower than second in their division when Thibodeau was leading the team. In his first season in 2010-11, Thibodeau’s Bulls won 62 games while pushing their way 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 have a losing season in Chicago, Thibodeau moved on 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 1.5 blocks per game down low. He made back-to-back All-Star appearances from 2013-15 during that stretch as well.
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 as he did two seasons ago.
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However, it’s always nice to see friends from the past, which is why the usually stoic Thibodeau was cracking a smile when Noah walked into the room.