SBD/March 9, 2011/Sports in Society

Presidential Influence: Reinsdorf Says White House Helped Him Pick Bulls Coach

White House endorsement helped Thibodeau land Bulls job
Bulls Chair Jerry Reinsdorf yesterday indicated that he hired coach Tom Thibodeau after receiving a "glowing stamp of approval from President Obama and his closest team of White House advisers, who had long lobbied for Thibodeau's hiring," according to Lacy Banks of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Reinsdorf said Thibodeau was "first recommended" to him by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during the '08 NBA Playoffs. Duncan played college basketball at Harvard, where Thibodeau was an assistant coach. Reinsdorf noted that Thibodeau was "on the Bulls' radar" when the team hired Vinny Del Negro after the '08 season. Reinsdorf: "When the job was open again [last offseason], I talked to Duncan several times on the subject, and he still strongly recommended Thibodeau. So we hired him. Then in July 2010, the White Sox were playing in Washington, and we invited President Obama to come to the game. First, David Axelrod (then Obama's senior adviser) arrived and said, 'Thanks for hiring Thibodeau.' Then a little while later, President Obama came in and the first thing he said to me was, 'Great hire'" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/9). Meanwhile, the Bulls play the Bobcats tonight, and Obama has "invited a bipartisan group of lawmakers from Chicago and Charlotte, N.C., to watch the game with him" at the White House (AP, 3/9).

A SPECIAL GIFT: In Milwaukee, Charles Gardner reported Bucks G Brandon Jennings following last night's game against the Wizards "sat in front of his locker and pulled out a pair of brand new Under Armour shoes," which he then autographed for Obama. Jennings said, "I just signed him a pair of shoes. A couple guys from Under Armour are going to go watch a game with him a couple days from now. So it's a gift from me to him. Hopefully I can hook him up with a pair of shoes and he'll wear them when he's out there hooping" (, 3/8).

MEET AND GREET: In Boston, Julian Benbow reports Obama was in town yesterday and "met privately with several Celtics," including Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, as well as coach Doc Rivers. Celtics Managing Partner Steve Pagliuca and BOD member Jonathan Lavine "organized the meeting" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/9).  
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