DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Whether Tom Thibodeau could have made more money elsewhere is unknown, but there's no disputing he inherited the best player when he decided to coach the Chicago Bulls instead of the New Orleans Hornets and New Jersey Nets.
Thibodeau's former boss, current ESPN analyst and former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, joked that Thibodeau took the worst offer of the three but wound up with MVP frontrunner Derrick Rose.
"I had no doubt he was the best candidate out there for many years," Van Gundy said Wednesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "He wasn't ready three years ago; he was ready 10-15 years ago but for whatever reason no one wanted to give him an opportunity and give the Bulls credit. And give New Orleans and New Jersey credit as well. The same year he had three opportunities, and the moron took the one that paid the least with the least amount of years guaranteed. But he got the best player so guess what? It's all good."
Thibodeau's response to Van Gundy?
"Well, I learned from him," Thibodeau joked on Thursday. "No, I was fortunate to have some other opportunities. I felt this was the best one. I thought it fit me the best so I'm more than happy with my decision."
Thibodeau's Bulls sit atop the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Boston Celtics by one game. As Thibodeau, a career NBA assistant, looked at his head-coaching options over the summer, he liked the Bulls' young, talented core of Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng along with the cap space the team had cleared to make a run at the star-studded free agent class.
"The thing that I liked about the makeup of the team was the fact that Derrick's a point guard, Jo's a center and Lu's a small forward," Thibodeau said. "And I felt those are three quality players already. And because of that cap space I knew we would be able to add quality players. So that's what made the job so attractive and the fact there's great tradition here. It's been an organization that's been committed to winning for a long time. So it had everything that I was looking for."
Thibodeau worked as an assistant under Van Gundy in Houston and New York and leaned on Van Gundy's experience during his interview process.
"[I talked to Van Gundy] every day," Thibodeau said. "And he's great. He's been great to me for a long time, throughout my career. I was bouncing different things off him. And he's a good friend."