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updated: 5/12/2012 9:33 PM

Don't be so fast to put it on Thibodeau

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  • The Bulls' Tom Thibodeau just did what coaches do when he still had Derrick Rose on the floor late in Game 1 of the team's only postseason series this year.

    The Bulls' Tom Thibodeau just did what coaches do when he still had Derrick Rose on the floor late in Game 1 of the team's only postseason series this year.
    Associated Press


One last thing about the end of the Bulls' season.

The losing coach always is the coach that was out-coached, so the 76ers' Doug Collins must have out-coached Tom Thibodeau.

The NBA East first-round series was decided in the Sixers' favor back in Game 1, even though the Bulls won that day.

Many will hold Thibodeau responsible forever for leaving Derrick Rose in to blow out his ACL in what essentially already was a blowout victory. The Bulls' point guard underwent surgery Saturday, and the timetable for his return is uncertain.

In that context let's ponder an interesting quote in relation to a Bulls superstar guard's injury:

"They scored 7 points in 13 seconds the last time in here," the Bulls' coach said of the opposition. "We had a 10-point lead with a minute to go and with seven seconds left it was 3."

Was that Tom Thibodeau discussing the 76ers and explaining why Rose still was in the game with less than 1:30 left and a double-digit advantage?

No, this was Doug Collins discussing a gimpy Michael Jordan still being in a playoff game with a big late lead.

The date was May 13, 1989, the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Knicks, the Bulls holding a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

If anyone wondered why Collins defended Thibodeau's use of Rose, maybe this explains it: Been there, done that.

While looking for something else, I found my column from that Game 3 of that Bulls-Knicks playoff.

The headline read, "With game won, Jordan labored on -- at what price?"

Sound familiar?

Collins was more fortunate than Thibodeau. Jordan aggravated a gimpy groin but returned the next day to help the Bulls beat the Knicks again. They closed out the series five days later.

Collins and Thibodeau did what coaches do. They feared squandering a big lead and suffering an embarrassing loss that would lead to eventual elimination.

Would Collins use Jordan or Rose or one of his current players the same way today? Nobody knows, maybe not even him, regardless of what he says.

Would Thibodeau have Rose in that game that late with that lead again? Nobody knows, maybe not even him yet, regardless of what he says.

Collins was a relatively inexperienced head coach back then, just as Thibodeau still is now, and inexperienced coaches are paranoid.

My guess is that each would do again what he did then because many coaches coach like that and many players play hurt.

"I've seen Michael score 47 points with a 103 fever," Collins said back then. "Even if he's not 100 percent, he's still better than 99 percent of the players in the league."

Perhaps Thibodeau and some others associated with the Bulls had that same mindset concerning Rose after all the injuries he fought through this season.

Jordan and Rose were blessed with similar attributes: Competitiveness, love of the game and belief they could play through physical adversity.

The primary difference between the two, however, is Jordan proved to be indomitable and Rose didn't.

Ironically, that series was the last that Collins won -- in his last of three seasons as Bulls coach -- until the Sixers closed out his old team last week.

Doug Collins is 2-0 when it comes to Bulls superstar injuries and Tom Thibodeau is 0-1, even though they managed them similarly.

Sometimes a coach just has to get lucky.

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