With the New York Knicks seeing the bottom completely fall out this season, the time has come for Tom Thibodeau to be seriously considered.
By Robby Sabo
From the years 2010 through 2015, Tom Thibodeau was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. It was a run of raging success. One that helped propel a struggling Bulls squad from the stranglehold of mediocrity to NBA powerhouse.
Back-to-back seasons of 41-41 prior to Thibodeau’s arrival, only to witness him finish with a career mark of 394-255 with the organization, is all the evidence needed. Only under his watch was Derrick Rose an NBA MVP, and the Bulls a legitimate championship contender.
The first season without Thibs hasn’t been kind to Chicago. With virtually the same roster they currently hold a 30-30 mark.
Back to mediocrity they go.
This isn’t a revelation, as the word around the Association is firm about what a solid coach Thibodeau is.
What’s troubling is the simple fact New York Knicks fans can actually have one of the better coaches in the land, yet it seems like an impossibility.
For Knicks fans, it was rough watching Thibs have such success in the Windy City. After all, he was with the Knickerbockers from 1996 through 2003 under the careful watch of Jeff Van Gundy. He then helped the Boston Celtics form one of the better defenses in the land in helping them win the 2008 title.
At no point since Thibodeau made a name for himself under Doc Rivers, have Knicks fans said “no thanks.” In fact, Knicks fans have been salivating for this guy, but no opportunities presented itself for a marriage to occur.
Now, word has it that Thibs is very interested in coming to the Big Apple.
About a month ago, Ian O’Connor of ESPN New York had this:
Source close to Tom Thibodeau: "The #Knicks are the job he's always wanted. He would crawl to Madison Square Garden."
— Ian O'Connor (@Ian_OConnor) February 8, 2016
But alas, he’s not a “Phil Jackson guy.”
The one moment, the one time the Knicks and one of the better basketball minds in the NBA could come together and make things work, the roadblock that is Phil Jackson is fully planted in the way.
Make no mistake about it: The boss and the head coach must be on the same page. The communication between architect of the personnel and general of the court has to be on point. This goes for any business.
Considering that, there is a real possibility that Thibs and Jax simply cannot coexist.
The troubling thing, however, is the idea that it’s automatically out of the question due to Jackson’s overall structure.
Allow me to explain.
Phil isn’t the normal, run-of-the-mill general manager/president. He doesn’t just choose the players and allow the head coach to go about his business.
Instead, Jackson’s entire system is a branch-off about his ideas, and his ways. This is why only the names of Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher, Brian Shaw, and Luke Walton have been bandied about as head coach of the Knickerbockers in the past, and now, in the future as well.
His coach must be a system guy. He must believe in the same things the Zen-Master believes in.
But why? Why does that have to be the case to such a hardened degree? Can’t the head coach and boss of basketball operations co-exist with fundamental agreements in mind, yet daily operations that differ?
Sometimes, the talent available overrides what you firmly believe in, and in this case Tom Thibodeau is so incredibly worth the compromise of Jackson giving up some of his beliefs on the court that it shouldn’t even be a question.
First and foremost, I don’t see Tex Winter sitting behind anybody on the Knicks bench. It was Winter, not Jackson, who was the real architect of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers famed triangle offense while run by the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Scottie Pippen, and Shaquille O’Neal.
There’s a legitimate reason businesses in America usually have a clear chain of command up and down the leadership hierarchy. It’s done to allow each leader to mold his/her followers as he/she chooses fit. Of course overriding principles will trickle down from top to bottom – for a each organization has its own beliefs.
What Jax is currently doing, though, is the basketball equivalent of Moneyball in baseball. He’s making the head coach of the Knicks a pure middleman, instead of a thriving leader who is learning on the job. Instead of succeeding or failing through his own experiences, he’s thinking about how Phil is over his shoulder and how Jackson would’v handled it.
Jackson struck gold last summer in drafting Kristaps Porzingis No. 4 overall. The kid has a real shot to become a cornerstone player of an NBA franchise, and that’s not an easy thing to obtain.
So, considering he snared that piece to the puzzle, all is not lost in Knick-land. In fact, should the right moves be made this summer, 2016-17 could be one hell of a building-block season.
But, and that is one huge but, Phil must allow some wiggle-room between he and the head coach of the Knicks.
Not every decision, thought and reaction can be the same as Phil Jackson.
Hiring Tom Thibodeau and allowing him to implement what he believes in will be a monumental step in the right direction for the present and future of the New York Knicks.
This doesn’t mean Phil Jackson still isn’t the boss, it simply means he trusts his head coach.