Mike Thibault was a long time NBA scout and assistant coach before coming to the WNBA where he was the head coach of the Connecticut Sun from 2003-2012, and then for the Washington Mystics since 2013.
While in the NBA, he was a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1978-1980, and was also an assistant coach there from 1980-1982. While he was with the Lakers, Magic Johnson was drafted by the organization in 1979. Thibault went on to become the Director of Scouting for the Chicago Bulls from 1982-1986, where he had a chance to work with Michael Jordan as a very young player before becoming a head coach in the Calgary 88's of the World Basketball League, and then the Omaha Racers of the Continental Basketball Association.
Before he went to Connecticut, Thibault was also an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks from 1998-2002 on George Karl's staff, and also had a chance to work with players like Ray Allen, who is now with the Miami Heat, and Sam Cassell, who is now an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. So all-in-all, he's been in the NBA for a long time and worked with a lot of notable figures in the league, players and coaches alike.
So given his NBA coaching and scouting experience, as well as the fact that he had the chance to work with and coach Johnson during his early years in the NBA, we asked Coach T about his thoughts on Johnson now being part of a WNBA team ownership group and also as a former Lakers player. He was generous enough to provide us his thoughts, and we're sharing them now with you.
Swish Appeal: How do you feel about Magic Johnson now being part of a WNBA team's ownership group?
Mike Thibault: I am thrilled with Magic becoming part of an ownership group in the WNBA. He brings a high standard of credibility to [the Los Angeles Sparks] and all of the WNBA. I think that there are skeptics out there about the league who will be forced to sit up and take notice. The fact that this group purchased the team and the fact that Joe Lacob of the Golden State Warriors has publicly stated his interest in eventually owning a team only serves to enhance the image and long-term success of the WNBA.
SA: Are you still in touch with Magic Johnson after you worked with him while with the Los Angeles Lakers organization?
MT: I see Magic upon occasion – he was here in DC earlier this season at a Wizards game and we had a chance to visit.
SA: Do you have any memorable moments regarding Magic Johnson that come to mind while you were with the Lakers?
MT: Magic (along with Michael Jordan) was one of the fiercest competitors that I have ever had the pleasure to coach. He constantly was striving to improve his game. He regularly was the conductor of post-practice shooting competitions in order to become a much better outside shooter. He clearly was the catalyst for the transformation of the Lakers from being a very good team to a dynasty. I was a part of two championships [1979-1980 and 1981-1982] with him that probably would not have ever happened in LA without him.
More than most any athlete I have ever known, he has the ability to light up a room the minute he enters it. He remembers people and makes them feel comfortable at all times. It is a unique skill or trait when a person can do that on a constant basis.
Once again, we'd like to thank Coach T for taking his time to provide his thoughts for us!
Also for your viewing pleasure, here is a video interview he did with Monumental Network where he talks more about the Sparks ownership change, what he is doing for the Mystics while waiting for the WNBA collective bargaining agreement to be finalized, and the Washington Wizards' improved play so far this season.