Minnesota Timberwolves: Defending Tom Thibodeau

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images /

Even with Jimmy Butler leaving town, Tom Thibodeau doesn’t seem to be out of the doghouse with the Minnesota Timberwolves fanbase. Here’s why Thibodeau deserves to keep his job with the Wolves.

A common criticism of sports in the 21st century is that today’s athlete is too entitled.

Actually, that might be putting it too politely. Entitlement is a nice word for “soft.”

Entitlement has become a popular word in our society, as it is usually directed at youth. The NBA is no exception. And one problem that the Minnesota Timberwolves have right now is that their two star players are 23 years old, which is young even in NBA years.

Make no mistake, this means that the future is bright in Minnesota, but it does also mean that these two players could be construed as entitled or even immature. Jimmy Butler, for his part, might call them weak.

Make no mistake, being 23 does not equate to being entitled or soft. However, 23-year-olds, especially ones that have already accepted max contracts, may be less inclined to want to play for a coach that demands toughness from them.

Of course, toughness used to be a good thing, but combined with two other “T” words, “Tom” and “Thibodeau,” toughness might as well be “taboo.”

There is not a lot of evidence that Thibodeau is tough to a fault, per se, it’s just that he has been criticized for playing his starters for too many minutes. Jimmy Butler, who at the time had played over five seasons for Thibodeau, complained last week that he was playing too many minutes as if it was the first season that had ever happened.

Thibodeau has also faced criticism for holding onto that very same Jimmy Butler for too long, as the team went on an 0-5 losing streak before Butler was finally traded.

More or less, a head coach that is also apart of management is an easy target. And that is what Thibodeau has become to critics. The minutes, the Butler controversy, the fact that Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn no longer wear midnight blue and aurora green uniforms … let’s just say that Tom Thibodeau’s future in Minnesota has looked better.

What fans may not consider is how lucky the Timberwolves are to have Tom Thibodeau as their head coach, being too tough or not. Fans may not recall that it was only until Thibodeau’s arrival that expectations were raised.

What some fans either may not know or may not care to know is that the Wolves won 341 games in the 13 regular seasons between playoff appearances. Tom Thibodeau has won 333 games in seven seasons between Minnesota and Chicago.

Fans might also not recall that there were eight different head coaches during those thirteen playoff-less seasons (nine, if you count Flip Saunders’ brief return to coaching as separate from his first run).

Critics won’t point out that last season, Thibodeau’s second as head coach in Minnesota, was tied for the fourth-best in franchise history. While we’re at it, let’s also point out that Thibodeau, now in his third season, is already the second-winningest coach in Minnesota Timberwolves history.

Lastly, like a good father, Tom Thibodeau was there when the franchise was born in 1989. This is tongue-in-cheek, of course, but it is a reminder about Thibodeau’s roots with the organization.

Now that the Jimmy Butler sideshow is over with, one might make the connection that Thibodeau’s stress-level will go down and he can get back to coaching. Maybe Butler being gone will be good for Wiggins, Towns, and Thibodeau.

Derrick Rose, who is in his seventh season with Thibodeau, even commented this week that Thibodeau let the players have a little fun at practice on Thursday, Karl-Anthony Towns’ birthday:

No one wanted to start the season 4-9. But anyone watching Monday night against the Nets and Wednesday night against the Pelicans can see that this is a new day for the Timberwolves, and mercifully, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

Jimmy Butler once told his Minnesota teammates, “you f*cking need me”. While that may have seemed to be true, but probably not.

Because the Timberwolves have Tom Thibodeau, and they do need him.