As an assistant with the Boston Celtics, Tom Thibodeau saw the obvious talent in Derrick Rose. But it wasn't until he took over as Chicago Bulls coach last summer that he saw Rose had something different.
"Until you get to be around him every day and you see his makeup and you see his drive and his humility and the fact that he's never satisfied -- he gets to the gym early, he practices hard, he's a great leader, he stays late -- you couldn't ask anything more of a guy," Thibodeau said Thursday on "Mike & Mike In The Morning" on ESPN Radio. "I think because of those attributes, he will continue to get better throughout his career. He's just a very unique guy. He really doesn't care about individual statistics. He cares about the team and winning more than anything else."
No team won more in the regular season than the Bulls, who wrapped up home-court advantage throughout the playoffs on Wednesday by beating the New Jersey Nets and getting some help from the Phoenix Suns, who defeated the San Antonio Spurs.
"We thought we would have the chance to be a good team," Thibodeau said. "The challenge was going to be how quickly we could all get on the same page together. We signed a number of new free agents. We had a new coaching staff so being ready at the start of the season was the biggest challenge. We had a very tough early schedule where we were on the road. We went to the West Coast for seven games so we knew we had to get through that. I think we were steady throughout the season in terms of improving. We have a great group of guys, high character. I think the team just got better and better as the season went along."
Leading the way was Thibodeau, a career assistant who was finally in the spotlight as a head coach after 20 seasons in the NBA. Now he's a front-runner for Coach of the Year.
"The basketball part, everything was pretty much what I had anticipated," Thibodeau said of adjusting to being a head coach. "It was dealing with all the other stuff for the first time: the media requirements, marketing requirements, and still planning and having enough time to prepare the team and organize everything. That was probably the biggest thing. The stuff outside of basketball."