tom thibodeau knicks
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Thibodeau returns to Chicago on the same night the Bulls honor Joakim Noah

Tom Thibodeau‘s start as a head coach happened in the Windy City. The Chicago Bulls took a chance on a Doc Rivers assistant and the rest is history. Thibs made himself comfortable in Chicago for a few years and he would not have had so much success without Joakim Noah there.

New York Knicks fans are probably groaning as they read that name. Noah was Phil Jackson‘s big free-agent signing and it turned out to be a major flop. It turns out, Noah was “too lit” to play in his hometown. For what it’s worth, the former All-Star is still on New York’s payroll.

But Bulls fans have different memories of Noah. He was an All-Star and the Defensive Player of the Year under Thibs in Chicago. If not for LeBron James, one of those Thibs-coached Bulls teams probably would have made an NBA Finals.

The Bulls are holding “Joakim Noah Night” on Thursday when the Knicks come to town. It’s the perfect time to do it too. Two of Noah’s former coaches — Thibodeau and Bill Donovan — will be on the sidelines. Remember, Donovan won two National Championships with Noah at the University of Florida before they both made the leap to the NBA.

Along with Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson, Noah is one of Thibodeau’s guys. What does that mean exactly? You will know it when you see it. Better yet, let’s have Thibs explain why he loves Noah.

“I’m thrilled for him because Taj [Gibson], Derrick [Rose], and Joakim [Noah] were like brothers. They are about as close as you can possibly be,” Thibs said after Tuesday’s win. “I am thrilled that the Bulls are honoring Joakim because he’s really connected with that city. He is a special person. He has done a lot with that community just as he has here in New York. He cares about people, so I am thrilled for him. It is a well-deserved honor. That team played with so much heart every night and when you play like that you are going to connect with the fans. The fans there are great basketball fans, It’s a great sports town. So, I am just thrilled for him and his family.”

Here are Thibs full comments on Noah and his old Bulls teams:

Donovan is heaping praise on Noah as well. In an interview with K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, Donovan detailed Noah’s competitiveness and loyalty.

“I always felt coming out of college that no matter where Joakim ended up playing, that locker room was going to be healthy and that team was going to win because he is consumed with winning,” Donovan said. “He would do anything for a team to win. If that meant coming off the bench, if that meant starting, whatever role, it’s always about winning and what’s best for the team. He really cares about his teammates and he wants to see them do well. He’ll sacrifice for his teammates.”

Knicks fans might hate watching Bulls fans shower Noah with love, but it’s well-deserving. The Knicks will play the Bulls in Chicago (8:10 p.m. ET) in the first meeting of the year between these two up-and-coming Eastern Conference squads.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.