Source: Thibodeau accepts Bulls' offer
Although an official announcement will have to wait until after the NBA Finals, Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau has accepted an offer to become the next head coach of the Chicago Bulls, a source told ESPNChicago.com on Saturday.
Thibodeau's deal is worth approximately $6.5 million, with two years guaranteed plus a team option, according to multiple media reports.
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This development comes after ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported Thibodeau had withdrawn his name from consideration for the New Orleans Hornets' coaching job.
Bulls officials declined comment. The team and the NBA agreed to wait until after the Finals are over to make the hiring official.
"We do not have any rules that prohibit a team from announcing a coaching hire during the Finals," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said. "In the Bulls case, because they have no plans to consummate any deal before the end of the Finals, we agreed that they should defer any announcement to the conclusion of the Finals."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers would not confirm the move before Boston practiced the day before Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
"I hope it's true, but we're not going to comment on it, I can tell you that," Rivers said. "We're focused on the NBA Finals. There's two teams. There's the Lakers and the Celtics, and that's what we're going to keep the focus on.
"But on Tom, he deserves the job. I think he's the best candidate out there. I've said that for three years now. So let's hope it's true."
In addition to getting interest from the Bulls and Hornets, Thibodeau was a strong candidate for the New Jersey Nets' coaching opening, Stein reported. Thibodeau interviewed with the Nets before the Celtics left the East Coast for Los Angeles for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Early in the Bulls' coaching search, conventional wisdom indicated the team was looking at candidates who had prior head coaching experience. Thibodeau's extensive experience as an assistant, however, was enough.
ESPNChicago.com had reported the Bulls were impressed with Thibodeau's basketball knowledge after a recent interview.
Those who worked closely with Thibodeau had high praise for him.
"Tom's a workaholic," Celtics forward Paul Pierce told ESPNChicago.com recently. "I'm always catching him in there working, watching film in his office. He's probably the most prepared coach I've ever seen."
"It's tough to get a picture of him, because he's always in the office," Rivers told ESPNChicago.com.
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"Tom has great focus and [the players] buy in. That's really important. You can sell it, what we want, but we make it a point that, if you don't buy in, you don't play. I think whenever you have a -- [Orlando Magic assistant] Brendan Malone, the same thing here -- the Magic know Brendan, just like [the Celtics] know with Thibs, Stan [Van Gundy] is going to back Brendan 100 percent and I'm going to do the same with Thibs."
In the Bulls, Thibodeau joins a team that boasts one of the best young point guards in All-Star Derrick Rose and is armed with enough salary-cap room to offer a maximum contract in a star-studded free agent summer that could include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson.
Prior to his stint in Boston, Thibodeau served as an assistant in Minnesota, San Antonio, Philadelphia, New York and Houston. Thibodeau will replace Vinny Del Negro, who had an 82-82 record in two seasons with the Bulls. Del Negro was fired last month after leading Chicago to 41 wins and the playoffs in both of his seasons. He also had an altercation with vice president of basketball operations John Paxson late in this season.
With no coaching experience, Del Negro was a fallback choice when he was hired out of Phoenix's front office after high-profile negotiations with Mike D'Antoni and Doug Collins fell through.
That widely expected move was the first in the most important offseason in years for the Bulls. Hiring Thibodeau is another big step, with the free agency period starting July 1.
When the Bulls let Del Negro go, general manager Gar Forman said free agency would play at least a small role in the hiring, although he added: "As we start this search, I don't want it to be about that. I want it to be about finding the best coach to fit this personnel."
He also indicated they were looking for an experienced head coach, although they weren't ruling out assistants or college head coaches. Thibodeau's only other head coaching job came in 1984, when he spent a year at his alma mater Salem State College in Massachusetts after getting promoted from assistant. He then spent four years as an assistant at Harvard before moving to the NBA.
Roman Modrowski is a senior editor for ESPNChicago.com. Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.