Where Tom Thibodeau's Bulls assistants wound up


Where Tom Thibodeau's Bulls assistants wound up

When Tom Thibodeau was fired by the Bulls on May 28, it left the status of his top four assistants unknown. And while newly tabbed head coach Fred Hoiberg had interviews with three of Thibodeau's four assistants, there was expected turnover in the following months. Here's a look at where the four assistants will be (or won't be) coaching in 2015.

Ed Pinckney (2010-2015)

After five seasons with Thibodeau in Chicago, Pinckney was hired Sunday by the Denver Nuggets. He'll be the top assistant for Michael Malone, who was unceremoniously fired in Sacramento 24 games into his second season with the club. Pinckney, a defensive specialist, will do wonders for a Nuggets defense that ranked 26th in efficiency (105.5) and 27th in points per game allowed (105.0). Denver has plenty to improve upon before being considered something other than a lottery team, but young prospects Emmanuel Mudiay and Jusuf Nurkic give the team something to build around as they try to figure out the direction they'll take to rebuild the franchise. Pinckney will join Chris Fleming, Wes Unseld Jr., Micah Nori and Ryan Bowen on Malone's staff.

Andy Greer (2010-2015)

The only assistant who was not retained when Thibodeau was fired on May 28. Greer was hired by Thibodeau in 2010 after stints with the Knicks, Rockets, Grizzlies and Trail Blazers. He and Thibodeau coached together as assistants under Jeff Van Gundy in Houston. Greer has not been hired by an NBA team yet, though both Billy Donovan and the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dwayne Casey and the Toronto Raptors were considering him for an assistant spot.

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Adrian Griffin (2010-2015)

One of the best young coaches in the NBA, Griffin spent time in Chicago as both a player (two stints) and assistant coach under Thibodeau. Next season he'll join Scott Skiles' staff in Orlando; Griffin played under Skiles during the 2004-05 and 2006-07 season. He'll be tasked with helping an extremely talented young core improve. That list of players includes Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon. Griffin was asked on Sirius XM Radio last month if he was surprised by Thibodeau's dismissal from Chicago. He responded: "I've been around this league awhile, nine years as a player, seven as an assistant coach. So nothing really surprises me in this league. And five years is a long time for a coach nowadays, so I believe that Tom did an unbelievable job of helping establish the culture of the Chicago Bulls and I believe Fred is going to take it to the next level. It's a great organization, great people, so I don't see any reason why it won't continue."

Mike Wilhelm (2002-present)

The lone member of Thibodeau's coaching staff who will remain with the team under Fred Hoiberg. Wilhelm has been in the Bulls organization since 2002, joining Bill Cartwright's staff as an assistant and advance scout. Wilhelm has been a part of four different coaching staffs - Carwright, Scott Skiles, Vinny Del Negro and Thibodeau - and will be joined on Hoiberg's staff by Jim Boylen and Pete Myers.

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers


Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

In a five-game span Wendell Carter Jr. saw preseason action against Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Myles Turner. The 19-year-old rookie had his share of expected ups and downs but performed well enough that Fred Hoiberg officially announced him a starter for the team’s season opener tomorrow night.

His reward for all that hard work? A matchup against All-Pro center Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

It’ll be an eye-opening experience for the Duke product, who just a year ago was readying himself for his first season of college basketball and a season-opening matchup against Elon. It’s safe to assume Embiid will pose a few more problems than did Phoenix center Tyler Seibring.

“Joel Embiid was one of my role models growing up,” Embiid said before practice Wednesday. “He was someone I always wanted to pattern my game after. Just to go up against him is a remarkable feeling. He’s a very physical player. He’s a very talented player. I’m going to be able to stack up and see what all I need to work on to last in this league.”

While it’s no easy task against a talent like Embiid, who was named All-NBA Second Team last season, Carter’s most important job will be staying out of foul trouble. Carter piggy-backed an impressive Summer League with a preseason that included averages of 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.1 minutes. But those numbers also included 7.7 fouls per 48 minutes. He racked up 17 fouls in five games, and had at least three in each.

Embiid only went to the line five times in Tuesday’s season-opening loss to the Celtics, but that was primarily against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Al Horford. Embiid won’t face as much resistance against Carter, putting the pressure on the rookie to stay on the floor.

“He’s going to have to navigate that without using his hands,” Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to be all five aware. It’s just not a one-man problem with Embiid. We have to have great awareness of him and try and mix up coverages and hopefully make him take tough shots, knowing that he’s going to hit some of those. You just can’t get deflated when he does.’’

The decision was a mere formality – Bobby Portis will start at power forward – after the frontcourt combination played considerably better in the Bulls’ final two preseason games. Though Jabari Parker was initially slotted in at power forward following Lauri Markkanen’s elbow sprain, Portis’ impressive preseason forced Hoiberg’s hand. Portis averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field in just 22.4 minutes.

“It’s all about combinations out there and we felt like Bobby gave us a great start with the way he was playing,” Hoiberg said. “And then we kind of changed things up with that second unit and put the ball in Jabari’s hands, so it was more that in trying to get guys out there with the right combinations.”

Lopez may have an expanded role if Carter gets into foul trouble early, while Parker will be the facilitator on a second unit that doesn’t have much in the way of a point guard. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the frontcourt will play out once Markkanen returns in roughly a month; if Portis and Carter continue playing well, Hoiberg could opt to keep them together on the second unit and put Lopez back in the starting lineup.

But for at least Opening Night – the Bulls also get Andre Drummond and the Pistons on Saturday – it’ll be the seventh overall pick getting his NBA feet wet with a matchup against arguably the best center in basketball. But’s it a role he’s earned, and on a Bulls defense looking for any sort of improvement, Carter is the player who can anchor it.

“His defense is always going to be important for us. He’s the guy that’s the anchor in that starting unit at the rim,” Hoiberg said, “and he’s done a really solid job of making perimeter guys taking contested shots when he gets switched off, or staying vertical at the rim and trying to make a big finish over the top of him, so yeah, again it’s a great challenge, great opportunity for Wendell.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night


Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: