Joakim Noah says Billy Donovan was ‘the best coach I ever had’

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It’s now obvious who has Joakim Noah’s vote for best basketball coach ever.

“I love Coach Donovan,’’ Noah said of the former Florida coach, now in charge of the Oklahoma City Thunder. “He’s the best coach I ever had. He’s somebody I learned a lot from. It was always more than just basketball with Coach Donovan. It was the best times of my life.

“I’ll never forget my time at University of Florida. He was my mentor, my other father. I feel like at Florida it wasn’t just about winning games even though we did a lot of that. I grew a lot as a man.’’

Not the only connection the Bulls have with Billy Donovan either.

Like the Thunder, the Bulls dipped into the college ranks for a new coach this offseason, naming Fred Hoiberg the successor to Tom Thibodeau.

NBA coaches have a certain brotherhood as is, but Hoiberg said that his connection with Donovan will always be a bit different, as the two squared off for the first time Thursday night.

“We talked this summer after both of us took the jobs,’’ Hoiberg said. “Billy’s a good friend. I’ve been on a few trips with Billy, a couple of coaches’ trips and spent a lot of time with him. Been on the recruiting trail with him. Never beat him on a recruit. But yeah, we’re the two guys from college this year, with [Celtic coach] Brad Stevens recently making the jump.

“We talk, we’ll always be there to support each other. In this business you have to have that support group.’’

Wilting Rose?

Derrick Rose continued to play in NBA games with double vision on Thursday, and while the point guard has struggled in the scoring department, Hoiberg will keep marching him out there.

“Number one, he wants to be out there,’’ Hoiberg said. “And he has been cleared to be out there. I truly believe we’re a much better team with Derrick Rose on the floor. If there was danger to him being out there, he wouldn’t be playing. It’s not with everything. But at times, he still has a little bit of blurry vision.’’

Hoiberg and Rose continued to talk about his progress, specifically where his rhythm was, and the thought was Rose was close.

“He said it’s coming,’’ Hoiberg said. “And I agree with that. You can see he’s getting his rhythm back. That’s great. You can tell he’s starting to feel confident. Now it’s a matter of getting it done out there.

“It’s hard enough to shoot with two eyes. It’s just a matter of time in my opinion before he takes that lid off the basket. And then he’s going to take off from there.’’

The infirmary

Kirk Hinrich remained inactive for the game with the Thunder, missing his third straight game with an injured toe, and will likely miss the Saturday game at the United Center.

“He actually had an injection in his toe [Wednesday],’’ Hoiberg said. “We’ll let that calm down. It’s going to take two days of staying off it completely. And hopefully we’ll get him back for a little practice. But he’ll be out most likely Saturday.’’

Mike Dunleavy (back surgery} was again sitting on the bench, but his return is still weeks away at best.

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