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Joakim Noah on Billy Donovan: ‘he’s like a father figure to me’

Bulls center Joakim Noah knows good coaching. He thrived under former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau as a young Bull in a defensive-oriented philosophy, he won national championships in college at Florida with Billy Donovan and he deferred starting time in order for Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system to be effective.

Of all the many memories he’s created as basketball player, Noah said his time as a Gator was “the best time of my life.” Before Thursday’s contest between the Bulls and the Donovan-led Oklahoma City Thunder, Noah talked about his feelings for his former coach in an interview with ESPN’s Nick Friedell.

“I love Coach Donovan, obviously. He’s like a father figure to me. Somebody that I’ve gone through a lot with. My time with him as a coach was the best time of my life, and it was a lot more than just basketball.”

Noah played on Gators squads that won two titles during his collegiate career, and boasted basketball talents that are still relevant in the NBA today. The Bulls big man has nothing but love for Donovan and said he is the best coach he’s ever played for.

“I always felt like it was more than basketball with Coach Donovan. He’s the best coach that I ever had. I got nothing but love for him. I have nothing bad to say about him. I think that he’s somebody who has great balance in his life … we’re very similar in a lot of ways in terms of competitiveness.”

When asked if he would ever play for Donovan again, Noah literally stopped the interview. It’s Hoiberg’s first season in Chicago, the last thing he needs is mutiny from fan favorites. Regardless of his heart’s true desire, it’s refreshing to see Noah behave like a professional when asked an emotionally charged question.