rj barrett
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

RJ Barrett appeared on JJ Redick’s podcast “Old Man and the Three” to talk all things New York Knicks, NBA playoffs, and his Duke connection, among other things. Redick and his co-host Tommy Alter said that Barrett was one of the most requested guests for the show, making this a highly-anticipated episode, especially for Knicks fans.

While Barrett discussed a wide range of topics, his comments on Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau stand out. Despite the rocky 2021-22 season that included rumors of a potential ouster, Thibs is coming back next season. It sounds like Barrett is behind his head coach.

JJ Redick: We’re asking [Thibodeau] questions and it’s Thibs being Thibs. It’s very monotone, very deep voice. He’s giving us his normal answers. And I can’t remember my exact question, but I asked about you. It was the last question we all got to ask.

And all of a sudden, his facial expression changed, his body language changed, and he sung your praises. He was very high on you. And he’s been often regarded as a difficult coach at times to play for. Can you just talk about your relationship with him over the last few seasons?

RJ Barrett: It’s funny you mention that because that’s my guy. I was actually talking to him yesterday in the facility. So he is really my guy, man. And he’s a great coach. I think people have a tough time with him, just because he expects excellence. He expects you to be in there and work every day. He’s not really with the when, you know, people are like, Ah, I need a couple games off or just I don’t feel like practicing today. You can’t play for Thibs if that’s your mindset. So like, you know, a guy like me I lace em up really no matter what’s going on, I’m out there every day. So we kind of built that relationship. Thibs is a good coach.

JJ Reddick: Have you found any similarities between him and Coach K?

RJ Barrett: Yes, I would say they’re similar. They’re friends and I didn’t know that until like he came to the Knicks. I didn’t know that they were friends but they’re actually close. He’s very disciplined, very disciplined, which is Coach K is like that too, you know. He lets you play and he lets you be yourself. He’s not on you too much about like everything. He gives you the freedom to kind of go and be yourself. He really wants you to succeed. So that’s how I see that Coach K and him are similar in that regard. They let you be you, but they just want you to work hard

*Part of JJ Redick’s second question was cut for brevity*

This is a full endorsement from Barrett. The Duke product has never shied away from the pressure of playing in New York or for a tough coach. Thibs can be demanding, but Barrett has always seemed like the type of player who wants that in a coach.

But in truth, Thibs probably needs Barrett more than vice-versa. His coaching style requires full buy-in from the best players. That’s part of what made him so successful in Chicago. Guys like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Jimmy Butler fully bought into that blue-collar mentality.

It worked during the 2020-21 season for the Knicks when Julius Randle was fully invested and Rose was healthy. With Barrett emerging as a franchise cornerstone, his relationship with Thibs is going to be crucial to the team’s success.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.