On the surface, based on his production, Joakim Noah looks like the coach's dream. And in many ways, he was exactly that on the court during his memorable nine-year stint with the Chicago Bulls. On the franchise top-ten leaderboards for stats such as offensive rebounds (1st), blocks (3rd), total rebounds (4th), steals (9th) and win shares (7th), he epitomized the hustling big man whose effort and intensity was matched by few.
But when you look at Noah's time with Chicago outside of game action, he seemed more like a teammates' dream — and a coach's nightmare. While that might be a little bit harsh, listening to him recall memories of his time under Tom Thibodeau makes it clear that they didn't have the smoothest relationship in the world. Noah joined Zach Lowe on his podcast to talk about his career prior to Joakim Noah Night at the United Center on Thursday.
Lowe shared a story about a water break at practice in which Noah finally lost his cool toward Thibodeau, screaming such statements as "you're making me f----ng hate basketball!" and Thibodeau responded appropriately.
"100 percent. That must have happened, seriously, like 20 times," Noah said. "And there were many times I told Thibs, like, 'if we weren't winning games, I would hate you.' And he would be like, 'you know what, Joakim, I feel the same way about you.' It was that type of relationship.
"...Thibs is the hungriest person in the game, period. Nobody's preparing like him. Nobody cares about winning more than that guy. You could be a No. 1 team in the East and you're playing against the worst team in the East, and the preparation for him is the same. And how many coaches can you say that about, you know? So at the end of the day... as annoying as some of those times were, I was prepared."
But that type of attitude from Noah was, perhaps unintentionally, beneficial to the rest of the team. Lowe recalled a number of his Bulls teammates telling him about how thankful they were for Noah's presence in those situations, as someone needed to fill the role of firing back at Thibs every so often. At the same time, it would lighten the mood in an often intense environment, which Noah also remembers being the case.
"I remember being in the parking lot before practice sometimes and I would see Kyle Korver sitting in his car, just looking. He wasn't even doing anything, he would just be looking straight at the wall, just, 'holy sh--,'" Noah said. "It just looked so painful, you know, so I think I've always been the energy guy."
That energy, enthusiasm and ability to speak his mind made him one of the most memorable figures to ever don a Bulls uniform — which is not an easy task, given the long history of basketball in the city — and they are just a few of the reasons he's getting honored at the United Center on Thursday.