tom thibodeau
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In our recent critique of Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau’s performance, there’s something we didn’t consider. Maybe Thibs just needs to loosen up and have some fun?

Former Knicks and Bulls point guard Nate Robinson recently spoke with ESNY and discussed his year playing for Thibodeau in the Windy City. While the two had an overall positive relationship, the three-time Slam Dunk Contest champion was aware of his coach’s overly serious energy.

“Like, we’re in the locker room. We laugh, we joke,” Robinson said. “He wanted everybody to be just, like, Army serious all the time. Like, ‘Bro, that’s just not my personality. I’m gonna come in, have a good time. I’m always gonna be ready to play.'”

Robinson isn’t entirely wrong, if you think about it. Even in games where the Knicks dominate from start to finish, Thibodeau doesn’t crack a smile. He owns a 439-332 record. He’s also a two-time NBA Coach of the Year. Yet, has he ever really enjoyed it?

People have tried to loosen the man up, including Robinson, but to no avail.

“We kind of bumped heads with that,” Robinson admitted. “But then after a while, I was like, ‘You know, Coach? I’m gonna just let you win that. I’m gonna go and just do my own thing in the locker room.'”

From there, Robinson claimed everything in Chicago “went smooth” and made a point to call Thibodeau “a great coach” who “brought the best out of me.”

Even so, it’s clear Thibodeau and his defense-focused approach have the Knicks stuck in second gear. Instead of pushing forward with new point man Jalen Brunson, the team is playing sub-.500 basketball out of the gate once again.

What if for one night, Thibodeau got rid of his signature scowl and just gave a defeated smile at a bad call instead? It’s still early enough in the season for the Knicks to find a hot streak and not stumble the rest of the way. Yet, Thibodeau seems to treat everything like a dry run for the playoffs.

Robinson lasted over a decade in the NBA because he remembered to have fun both on the court and in the locker room with his teammates. Maybe the Knicks’ fortunes will change if Thibodeau takes a page from his former player’s book.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.