Adrian Griffin rounds out Bulls’ coaching staff


Sep 8

It was literally just the other day when Adrian Griffin was busy preparing for his third season as an assistant coach with the Bucks.

He hadn’t thought about leaving Milwaukee or his next professional step; that is, until Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called. Now, with less than three weeks to go before training camp opens, the Bulls have rounded out the coaching staff with the addition of Griffin.

“I’m very excited,” Griffin said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “It’s definitely a great opportunity for me. The team is looking very good and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Griffin, who coached behind the bench for Scott Skiles in Milwaukee the last two seasons, joins Ron Adams in his return to Chicago and newcomer Andy Greer on Tom Thibodeau’s staff. An official announcement from the team regarding those additions and more is forthcoming.

It’s a significant move for Griffin, who at only 36 years of age will be one of the younger bench coaches in the league.

“It’s a huge step for me, especially at this time in my career being a young coach in the league,” he acknowledged. “The biggest thing is to continue to learn. I feel like I’ve learned so much from Scott and now I have the opportunity to learn from Thibodeau. It’s a great staff here and I just left a great staff. Hopefully, it’s a situation where I’ll acquire a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time.”

Griffin had a nine-year NBA career that included two and a half seasons with the Bulls, as well as stints with the Celtics, Mavericks, Rockets and Sonics. He said that Skiles has had the most influence on him, in part due to playing for the former Bulls coach towards the end of Griffin’s career when his playing time had declined.

“I started watching the game from a different perspective,” said Griffin. “I looked at how I could help players get better or what he was thinking at a particular time, whether it was a substitution or play call. I started to think about the game as a coach would do it.”

When asked what he felt Skiles saw in him to initially give him a shot at coaching, Griffin remarked: “I think he figured that if a guy as slow as I was without a lot of athletic ability could play in the league, he must be a bright guy. In all honesty, I just tried to be a professional and do what was asked of me without rocking the boat. It’s not a lot to ask of a player to be professional and do what is required of you.”

Other coaches who Griffin played for throughout his career include P. J. Carlesimo, Jeff Van Gundy, Avery Johnson, Don Nelson and Rick Pitino. He said he has taken bits and pieces from each coach to formulate his own style, a process that is still a work in progress.

While he was with the Rockets for the 2003-04 campaign, Griffin played for Thibodeau, an assistant on Van Gundy’s staff at the time.

“I remember him being very detailed and focused,” said Griffin of Thibodeau. “He was Van Gundy’s right hand man and he knew the offensive and defensive philosophies in and out. He made sure the players did everything accordingly. He was very well respected among the players.”

Griffin also said he sees some similarities between Thibodeau and the aforementioned Skiles, who led the Bulls to 49 wins in 2006-07, Chicago’s best season since 1997-98.

“They are both very bright and no-nonsense guys,” he said. “When Scott played, he was very hardnosed. He demands his players play with a certain type of professionalism and intensity. So does Thibodeau. He’s very detail-oriented and old school in his approach in that the value of defense is preached and demanded from the players.”

While Griffin’s specific role has not yet been defined, he’ll sit down with Thibodeau in the coming days to discuss and get to work. Working in his favor is that his coaching background, though limited, is surprisingly well-rounded.

In his first season with the Bucks, he primarily worked with the team’s big men before shifting to spend more time with the backcourt players last year. For Griffin, working with the post players allowed him to acquire a greater understanding of the intricacy that goes into coaching. He likes what he sees in Chicago’s big men, noting the addition of Carlos Boozer and the improvement of Joakim Noah.

“Joakim has gotten so much better and he’s fun to watch with his intensity and the way he approaches the game. I’m also very impressed with Taj [Gibson] and his skill level. Especially since he’s still new to this league; he’s going to be a player to be reckoned with.”

With two-a-day practice sessions and the preseason looming, Griffin will be thrown right into the fire. But it’s a challenge he’s ready to accept as he looks forward to another NBA season.

“I’m expecting very good things from this group,” he said. “With the additions of Boozer, [Kyle] Korver and [Ronnie] Brewer to the core that includes [Derrick] Rose, Noah and [Luol] Deng is going to make it very exciting to see how far we can go. Of course nothing is guaranteed and guys are going to have to put in the work. But when you look at our roster on paper right now, we look very good and the Eastern Conference is wide open.”

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