With a name like Tom Thibodeau, it's easier to imagine some guy from Montreal coaching a hockey team than to picture the truth.
In reality, Thibodeau, a six-foot guy born in Connecticut, earned a sterling record during his five-year stint as head coach of the Chicago Bulls (a basketball team). And last week, he was hired to coach an exciting young Minnesota Timberwolves squad, inking a five year, $10 million deal with team owner Glen Taylor.
Yesterday, Taylor, 75, described the situation of having such a talented team and a respected coach as a "unique opportunity to go for the top," the kind of thing that comes along only a few times in one's life, the Star Tribune reports.
Thibodeau — or "Thibs," as the kids call him — said the team has a "lot of room to improve" on its defense, and its rebounding could use some work, too.
"If you look at what wins in the playoffs, you've got to be strong on both sides of the ball," he said, adding: "You don't skip over any step."
Thibodeau also spoke fondly remembering his first gig with the Timberwolves, also his first job in the NBA, back when he served as an assistant coach under coach Bill Musselman. At the time, the 'Wolves were a fledgling expansion team, and Thibodeau was a young assistant coach at Harvard.
Thibodeau was hired in 1989 in a "player development" role and as a talent scout. For a time, he actually lived with Musselman, a guy with a reputation for an obsessive work ethic and intensity: The two of them sometimes joined pickup games at Timberwolves practice.
Upon hiring Thibodeau, Musselman made a prescient assessment, praising his assistant as having a "fine, young coaching mind."
This turned out to be true. But we should also recognize what was above that mind: Namely, an undeniably gorgeous head of hockey hair.
These photos from that era prove as much, showing a thick, neck-length mane that you expect to see behind the bench at a hockey rink, not prowling the sidelines of an NBA basketball game.
These days, Thibs keeps it cut short, neat, like almost every other coach in the league. And for those who didn't know his hair history, that suited his reputation as a tough-minded disciplinarian who runs brutal practices and conditioning programs. But now that you know that Tom Thibodeau used to have such glorious hockey hair, we suspect you'll have trouble forgetting it.
Dear Tom: If you ever decide to grow it back out, just know you've finally moved to the one state that would truly appreciate it.