Tom Thibodeau’s hard-nosed mentality will help give the New York Knicks a new identity, and hopefully some stability going forward.
Well, it finally happened. After months of careful deliberation, New York Knicks president Leon Rose made it official, inking Tom Thibodeau to a five-year deal to become the team’s head coach. The news was broken by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday and may finally provide the struggling Knicks with a prudent coach at the helm.
Rumors had emerged over the past week that the Knicks reportedly encountered an impasse in discussions over contract negotiations with Thibodeau. As a result of the stalled negotiations, Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd had emerged as a potential alternative for the job, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Of course, the Knicks head coaching hire couldn’t avoid a tad bit of drama, but Rose got the deal done and landed the prized leader.
Thibs sports a solid resumé as an NBA head honcho after spending 20 years as an assistant for several NBA franchises — including the Knicks from 1997 to 2003. His first gig in Chicago oversaw the emergence of Derrick Rose and he guided the Bulls to five consecutive playoff appearances before his dismissal after growing tension between Thibs and the Bulls front office.
From there, he joined the Minnesota Timberwolves and capitalized on the team’s budding future, converting a 31-win team into a 47-win team in just his second season in the Twin Cities. A stacked Western Conference led to an unlucky matchup against the Houston Rockets, which ended in a quick five-game series. The 2018-19 season would be Thibodeau’s last, however, as a slow start coupled with the drama revolving around Jimmy Butler led to Minnesota orchestrating a change at head coach.
The Knicks desperately needed a proven head coach after multiple failed hirings while Phil Jackson called the shots for a number of years. The hirings seemed to mirror success on the court (i.e. Derek Fisher and Jeff Hornacek) rather than success as a head coach, but Rose is choosing a different direction by landing a proven winner — albeit a successful regular season coach.
Thibodeau will solely focus on the head coaching gig after serving as a key front-office presence in Minnesota. The pieces may not be entirely in order for Thibs, but the future in New York could be bright with such a sound tactician at the helm.
A 21-45 record may not scream improvement, but the Knicks were starting to see some future pieces develop quite nicely. The biggest name has to be Mitchell Robinson, who led the team in win shares for the second year in a row. A massive presence on the defensive end, the uber-athletic center shot an efficient 74.2% from the field, setting an NBA single-season record in the category.
RJ Barrett may not have taken the league by storm as much as his Duke teammate Zion Williamson and projected rookie of the year Ja Morant, but a nice stretch prior to the NBA’s suspension showed promise for the 19-year-old. Averaging 14.3 points per game at such a ripe age leaves plenty on the table for Thibodeau to work with and help develop Barrett into the star many projected he will become.
Thibs may not be the most profound developmental coach on the market — or on the list of coaching candidates for the Knicks for that matter — but he brings something to the Knicks that most couldn’t—structure. Known for his rigorous coaching style and hard-nosed mentality, Thibodeau will bring toughness to a team that has struggled to contend for a while.
The Knicks desperately need structure and leadership and Thibs is the perfect hire to bring just that back to Madison Square Garden. A splash of a lottery pick in this year’s draft could give Thibodeau another building block to kickstart the team’s rebuild and capitalize on his five-year deal in no time.