Tom Thibodeau isn’t that far removed from his time with the Celtics.
The Chicago Bulls head coach, widely considered to be one of the very best if not the best in the NBA, was an assistant with the Celtics from 2007 up until 2010.
And from afar, he has confidence that the Celtics, currently in rebuilding mode, will be back on track soon.
“I think the future is bright,” Thibodeau said before the Bulls’ 107-102 win over the Celtics at TD Garden Sunday night. “You’ve got great ownership, great management. Brad [Stevens is] a great coach. You have a guy like [Rajon] Rondo to build around. You’ve got some good young players.
“Danny [Ainge has] been through it a few times now and the one thing about Danny is he’s not afraid. He’ll do it through the draft, he’ll do it through trades. I think people have to be patient.
“There were six great years. I know when the trade was made to get Kevin [Garnett], they were hoping for three so getting six was a huge plus and the Celtics have always found a way. When you look at the history, every decade they’ve had great teams and I’m sure this will be no different.”
Thibodeau also has an interesting perspective about Rondo, the point guard who returned to action this season after missing nearly a year following a knee injury.
Thibodeau’s point guard on the Bulls, Derrick Rose, has had knee issues that have kept him sidelined for long periods. So Thibodeau knows the challenge Rondo faces.
“It’s a tough injury to overcome,” Thibodeau said. “I think he’s put the work in and just watching his growth overall from where he was when he first came in to, you know, he’s experienced it all.
“When he first got here, it wasn’t a very good team. He got through it — starting point guard on a championship [team]. He’s gained experience. Now he’s a veteran leader and he has a new challenge. I think he’s one of their building blocks for the future.”
Thibodeau also said that when he joined the Bulls, he wanted to create a culture in Chicago similar to what existed in Boston.
“The willingness of the best players to sacrifice is huge,” he said. “I thought that was the type of team that we wanted to build in Chicago. We wanted to build on our defense, sharing the ball, playing together, playing as a team, putting the team first. I thought the Boston teams embodied that.”
And when asked for his favorite memory as a Celtic, aside from winning a title in 2008, Thibodeau said, “Probably the group, the way they worked. The willingness to sacrifice for each other. Of course, it started with Kevin, Ray [Allen] and Paul [Pierce]. They set the tone for the team. What you didn’t see was how hard they worked every day in practice and I think that’s what made them so special.”
Stevens said he noticed something interesting about the Bulls’ roster.
“We were looking at this: I think they have seven guys on their roster that played in the national championship game in college,” Stevens said.
“When you start talking about March Madness, you start thinking about some guys that have been successful before, and you put them all together, and they’re having good success.”
Stevens was reminded that he advanced to consecutive national championship games as the coach at Butler.
“Yeah, but coaching’s overrated,” he joked. “But [Thibodeau is] a good coach. He makes them a lot better.”
Honoring the fallen
The Celtics wore special black Boston Fire Department warmup T-shirts to honor those who fought the deadly fire on Beacon Street that took the lives of two firefighters. The Celtics coaching staff also wore patches on their suits to honor the firefighters. “I think it’s for a good cause, pay homage and respects to people who risk their lives to save others,” Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk said. “It’s something pretty special.” . . . Rondo will sit out Monday on the second of a back-to-back set against the Bulls to rest his right knee, and the guard is still scheduled to be a guest color television analyst for Comcast SportsNet during the first quarter. Does Rondo have butterflies before he makes his TV debut? “Um, I don’t think so,” he said after a dramatic pause. Jared Sullinger said, “I better bring my ‘A’ game. I know that much, just because I know he’s going to trash me the whole time.” . . . Thibodeau offered praise for Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin, a Celtics player from 1999-01. “I’m hopeful that he will get more consideration for head coaching opportunities,” Thibodeau said. “He’s done a terrific job. He’s strong in all areas. Great communicator, greater leader, great teacher. I’m hopeful for him. I think he’s deserving.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.