Tom Thibodeau 'looking forward' to United Center coaching return

CHICAGO -- Tom Thibodeau is ready to make his NBA return to the United Center on Tuesday night.

The Minnesota Timberwolves head coach was in good spirits after Tuesday's shootaround in advance of a game against the Chicago Bulls.

"It's always great to come back," Thibodeau said. "Obviously I had an opportunity this summer with Team USA. But when you come back, it's a lot of fond memories being here. So I'm looking forward to it."

Thibodeau coached the Bulls for five seasons, compiling a 255-139 regular-season record before getting fired after the 2014-15 season. He has returned several times to the United Center since being fired, both as an assistant coach for Team USA and as a spectator during the NCAA tournament.

But Tuesday will mark the first NBA game Thibodeau has coached in Chicago since his ouster. Thibodeau, who was fired in large part because of a broken relationship with Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson, said he doesn't have an issue with his former bosses.

"I don't have a problem with those guys," Thibodeau said. "I really don't. They have a job to do, I had a job to do. Unfortunately, we had some injuries along the way, and so it didn't end up maybe the way we all would have liked, but I don't have any problem with those guys."

Thibodeau also noted that he would like to sit down with Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf at some point.

Reinsdorf released a strongly worded statement after Thibodeau's dismissal, blaming the coach for not being more communicative within the framework of the organization. For his part, Thibodeau repeatedly has praised Reinsdorf for giving him his first head coaching opportunity and sounds confident that the pair will be able to clear the air over time.

"You know, I was trying to get to him at the Hall of Fame thing," Thibodeau said. "Jerry was great to me. I've got great respect for him. I spoke to [Bulls president] Michael [Reinsdorf]. But at some point, I'll sit down with Jerry."

During his media session with reporters, Thibodeau grew nostalgic at times discussing his time with the Bulls.

"When you come back you look at the building, you look at your time that you spent here," he said. "Obviously you build a lot of relationships over that time. I know with a great organization, the history, tradition, being part of it, it was a great run for me, a great experience.

"It's not only -- you think about the players, the organization, all the people that you see, the fans, the city itself. When I look back, it was unbelievable. But the nature of our league is you usually don't stay with one place your whole career. It's hard to leave New York, it's hard to leave Boston, it's hard to leave Chicago, but I'm excited about the opportunity I have."

Bulls All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler and power forward Taj Gibson are the longest-tenured players on Chicago's roster, and both spoke in recent days of the respect they still have for their former coach.

Both the players and Thibodeau know that Tuesday night will me a more emotional game than most regular-season contests.

"Sometimes you don't realize how quickly things do change," Thibodeau said. "When I look back to my time when I came here, each year that I went back to Boston, there were less and less players there. Of course Doc [Rivers] leaving, to the point in the end where there was hardly anybody except the organization, the ownership."

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Thibodeau has no issue with Bulls' front office
Thibodeau has no issue with Bulls' front office
Returning to the United Center for the first time since being fired by the Bulls, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau reflects on his tenure as head coach in Chicago and explains why he does not resent the Bulls' front office staff.
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