Brendan Haywood recalls Tom Thibodeau spending one day as a Wizards coach

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Mike DePrisco
·2 min read
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Haywood recalls Thibodeau spending one day on Wizards' staff originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

With the Wizards' latest matchup against a Tom Thibodeau-coached team Friday night at Capital One Arena, one former Wizard remembered a time Washington had the fiery, defensive-minded leader on its staff. 

It just didn't last very long. 

"That's a fact that a lot of people didn't know," Haywood said on Wizards Pregame Live. "Tom Thibodeau for a hot second was the defensive coordinator for the Washington Wizards. When I was there, he was defensive coordinator, for one day."

In an effort to give the Wizards' defense a boost, president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld pegged Thibodeau as an assistant coach to turn Washington's defense around heading into the 2007-08 season. 

In the season prior, the Wizards had the fourth-ranked offense in the league, led by Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, but posted the third-worst defense in basketball. If they had any hopes of challenging LeBron James in the Eastern Conference, they had to improve on the defensive end of the floor. 

"[Thibodeau] signed on. Ernie Grunfeld knew our offense was great but our defense was really, really lacking," Haywood said. "And Thibs came around, he didn't feel the energy was great between him and the current coaching staff, so he left. And then he went on to turn Boston into one of the best defenses and they won championships."

So Thibodeau, who coaches with a unique intensity and emphasis on the defensive end of the floor, only lasted one day on Eddie Jordan's staff. He then joined Doc Rivers in Boston, helped construct a dominant defense built around Kevin Garnett, and helped that team win a title in its first year with the Celtics' new "Big Three" of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. 

The Wizards improved their defense slightly, finishing 21st in the NBA in defensive rating, but it wasn't enough to get them past the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs. Looking back, Haywood wonders what kind of impact Thibodeau could have had on that Wizards team. 

"I sometimes think about, man, what could the Wizards teams that I played on, what could we have been if we had a defensive coordinator like Thibs to hold us accountable?" Haywood said. "Because the only thing we were missing was defense."

Thibodeau is now on his third team as a head coach after previous stops with the Bulls and Timberwolves. He's constructed great defenses at every stop in his career. If only he could have lasted in Washington longer than a day.