Bulls' respect for Jason Collins unchanged

NEW YORK -- Jason Collins' announcement that he is gay might have come as a shock to some around the NBA, but Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau took the news in stride.

The veteran coach has respected Collins' game from afar and was happy for the 34-year-old big man.

"I don't know Jason well," Thibodeau said. "We met with him last summer and I was very impressed with him as a person. Two close friends of mine have coached him and they've raved about him as a person, as a player and as a leader, so I didn't think it was a big deal. I was very impressed with him and my opinion of him hasn't changed one bit and I'm happy for him."

Collins' announcement in Sports Illustrated makes him the first active player in a major American team sport to come out during his playing career.

"I just think it's reflective of society," Thibodeau said. "The NBA has always been open-minded and I think it will continue to be so, so I don't see it as being a problem."

Kirk Hinrich, Collins' former teammate in Atlanta, also saw no issue with Collins’ announcement.

"It doesn't really change what kind of person he is or anything," Hinrich said. "He's a good guy and that's just who he is."