DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Carlos Boozer could tell that Tom Thibodeau was a little different from the moment he started working out in the Berto Center. Unlike most of his counterparts, the career assistant decided not to change any of his ways when he finally got a crack to become the Chicago Bulls head coach.
"It wasn't the assistant coaches that were down here working us out," Boozer recalled after Thursday afternoon's practice. "Thibs worked me and Joakim out [in] July, August, September. He was down here working us out himself. We gained respect for him right then and there."
Having been in the league for close to a decade, Boozer knew just how rare this was.
"This is the NBA," he continued. "Most NBA head coaches don't do that. They usually watch from the side [and] let their guys work everybody out. Coach Thibs was working me and Joakim out this summer and that's where I gained a lot of respect for him because he wanted to be hands-on. And if you guys had access to everything that we do, you would see how hands-on he is from each practice we do. He's in charge of every practice. From our scouting reports [on]. He does the entire scouting report every time we play. He's as prepared a coach as I've ever been around."
The preparation never seems to end in Thibodeau's world.
There's always another video to watch or a scouting report to construct ... no matter how well the Bulls are playing.
While the endless work cycle may seem strange to some, it's that constant desire to improve which endeared the veteran coach to his players.
"He watches more tape," Boozer said, before pausing and pointing up at an office window. "Like while you guys are interviewing me right now, he's up there right now watching tape. So for us, we were excited to see how he would be and the respect that we give him, he earned it. And you can tell his system works. When we do his system during the course of a game, we usually win, so I think players can respect a coach that puts [in] a system on offense and defense. And as professionals, we can see the success rate that we've had doing it his way. I think the respect has been earned."
That old-school work ethic seems to have rubbed off on his players.
"If you want to win, you'll do it, [and] separate yourself from all the other teams in the NBA," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said recently. And we got good guys on the team, where they're winners. [They do] extra stuff; like shooting before practice, shooting after practice.
"When you come into practice, having the right attitude, making sure that you don't mess up practice. You don't want to be the one that messes up a whole practice, because if you're messing up that practice, there's other teams that are having great practices around the NBA and that could put you back a little bit. We just try to come in, work every day, especially defensively, work hard and try to learn [about] each other better on the defensive side."
But how do Rose and his teammates maintain the laser-like focus that Thibodeau demands of them?
"He demands it," Rose said. "There's nothing [else]. He demands that. He watches everybody, watches everything you do, everything. So if he sees one player going the other way, he's definitely going to call you in for a meeting, just to see what's going on or get one of the coaches to talk to you."
"It's easy," he said of staying focused. "We want to win. It takes care of all the little stuff. If you want to win, you stay focused, you stay hungry, you stay driven. And we've got a team with a bunch of guys that wants to win, so it's really easy, to be quite frank."
But isn't there a chance that the Bulls could get tired of Thibodeau's constant teachings at some point?
"You can't complain," Rose said. "We're winning. It would be selfish if you complain or get tired of what we're doing. That's the biggest thing he always says, don't get tired, or don't get bored. Because right now we're winning games. We're winning some game shooting under 40 percent, that's kind of crazy in the NBA, but we can't complain because we're winning."
It's hard to argue with that. That's why Thibodeau isn't about to change anything as his team gets ready for the playoffs.
"The big thing is how you're pacing your team," Thibodeau said. "You want to clean things up, continue to work on them. And then the goal is to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season and to try and be as healthy as possible and we feel don't have to change our style of play, just keep doing the things we've been doing all year. That's how we got here."