The basketball coaching fraternity is a tight-knit one. It’s common practice for any training camp to have multiple coaches watching from the sidelines. College coaches. NBA assistant coaches who are in between gigs. Even former NBA head coaches, waiting for their next opportunity.
This week alone, the Bulls have hosted Charlie Henry, who served as the Windy City Bulls head coach and Fred Hoiberg’s assistant coach and now serves as Nate Oates’ assistant at Alabama, and longtime NBA head coach Terry Stotts.
“I got a chance to know him a little bit through Rick Carlisle; Rick and I are close,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of Stotts, who served as Carlisle’s assistant coach with the Mavericks. “Terry and I have run into each other at different points of time over the years. Always had great respect for him as a guy and as a coach. And he reached out and wanted to come in for a few days. I’ve always liked Terry a lot. He’s a great guy.”
Despite going 42-30 last season, Stotts’ nine-year run with the Trail Blazers ended after their first-round playoff loss to the Nuggets. He owns a career 517-486 mark over stints also with the Hawks and Bucks — and knows the Bulls well enough to stop longtime equipment manager John Ligmanowski to exchange pleasantries.
Stotts served as George Karl’s assistant when the Bulls beat the SuperSonics in the 1996 NBA Finals.
Last season, Stotts invited former Bulls coach Jim Boylen to Portland’s training camp to serve as a defensive consultant for a stretch. Former Bulls and current Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau used to rave about his experience checking in on teams, including the Warriors and Celtics, who let him observe practices during his out-of-work stint between the Bulls and Timberwolves.
“Listen, I’ve gone into all sorts of different NBA practices when I was a college coach because the college season usually didn’t start until the middle of October, right? And training camp starts in the NBA. So it’s, ‘Oh, I’m going to recruit over here, let’s try and watch practice here, let’s try and go over there, maybe pick up a different drill, meet different people,’” Donovan said. “So people were always gracious to me, letting me come in, and I always feel like when you’ve got an opportunity to do that you’ve got to be able to return that. It’s always been my thing because people have been really, really good to me over the years.’’