When you first came here, the rap was that you were too much of a “win now” guy who would sacrifice the future for the present. If anything, your performance has been the opposite. Did you always plan from the start to take such a deliberate step-by-step approach?
Tom Thibodeau: I have always approached things that way. When you look at coaching in the pros 25-plus years, I have been with rebuilding teams and I have been with championship teams, and so I know all the steps in-between. I didn’t fool myself when I took this job. I knew what the process would be. I also liked the way it was positioned, with the young players, the [salary] cap space. Cap space, you have to be smart with it. If we could have gotten a couple of guys that we liked, we would have done that. We didn’t, but the important thing was not to misstep; to keep the flexibility going forward.
I knew we had to develop the guys we had here too and that there was a big gap from a numbers standpoint [in their performance]. That was a big thing was to lock into the improvement, each and every day.
MinnPost: So it sounds like you did know this was going to be a year of evaluation and immersion, especially with your young core.
TT: You can have observations from the outside looking in, and I did that last year. But until you actually get in and do it yourself, you really don’t know everything about them. You don’t know how it fits. You don’t know who they are. The challenge when you have young players is: How do you speed up the process? Just understanding what goes into learning — you have to give them the chance to learn. And part of learning is the explanation and then the repetition and then the correction, and then to actually go out in the games and do it. And it is constant. So trial and error is a big part of it.
I think we have gotten better. To me it is all about: Are we doing the right things each and every day? Are we preparing the right way? Are we putting everything we have into each day? Are we building the concentration that is necessary to be successful? And that is our challenge.
Every game reveals exactly where you are. We should have a good understanding after every game why we either won or lost that game. And then make the corrections to improve. And it never stops; it never gets easy. It is just the constant: build the habits, study, prepare, play, learn.
MP: And part of trial and error is knowing sometimes you are not going to be perfectly prepared and things are not going to go right. That things you assumed were taken care of are suddenly not taken care of.
TT: You set standards so things can be measured and done at a championship level. Everything you do is important. How you prepare, how you practice, how you study in a meeting, how you study the scouting report, how you study in your walk-through, how you conduct yourself in a shoot-around. What you are doing before the game. Everything matters. If you are trying to build championship habits, it takes that commitment from everybody.
The challenge is to bring the best out of the group. It is not only doing well yourself, it is bringing the best out of everybody.
To read the full interview, please click here: ‘Everything matters’: A Q&A with T-Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau