By Robert Held
Several of the city’s residents might be unaware that one of the most recognizable and well known teams at this year’s summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, has a tie to New Britain.
Tom Thibodeau, born and raised in New Britain, has worked his way into becoming an assistant coach for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team. Thibodeau has been an assistant coach on the National Team since 2013. Known for his skills as a defensive leader, Thibodeau serves as the defensive coach for the Men’s National Team under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Men’s National Team is seeking their third straight gold medal, and so far has yet to lose a game in Rio.
Thibodeau achieved most of his success as head coach of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. In 2011, he won NBA Coach of the Year, after he led the Bulls to a 62-20 record in the regular season. The following season, he became the fastest head coach in NBA history to reach 100 career victories.
After failing to get the Bulls out of the second round of the NBA playoffs during the 2014-15 season, and despite getting Chicago into the playoffs every season as head coach, Thibodeau was fired after five seasons. However in April of this year, Thibodeau was named head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Originally a standout player at Salem State College, Thibodeau helped lead his team to consecutive appearances in the Division III national tournaments during his sophomore and junior years. In his senior season, in which Thibodeau also served as a captain, he led his school to its first ever league title and appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Upon graduating from Salem State College, Thibodeau immediately took a job as an assistant coach at his alma mater in 1981. In 1984, he became the head coach at Salem State, before leaving the next year to become an assistant coach at Harvard University.
In 1989, Thibodeau took his first job in the NBA as an assistant coach for a then expansion franchise Timberwolves. From there he served as an assistant coach for several NBA teams including the San Antonia Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, and the Boston Celtics.
It was with the Knicks that Thibodeau began to make a name for himself as a coach in the NBA. In 1999, Thibodeau, as an assistant coach to then-Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy, helped lead the Knicks to the NBA Finals. During the 2000-01 season, he helped the Knicks set a then-NBA record of 33 consecutive games holding opponents under 100 points.
As an assistant coach in 2008, he won an NBA title with the Celtics. Two years later, he earned his first NBA head coaching job with the Bulls.
Thibodeau is thought to love basketball so much, that he has never been married or had any children.