SPANISH HARLEM – Last week, the New York Knicks announced that they were hiring Tom Thibodeau to be their next head coach. This was no surprise, as Thibbs has been the favorite for months – more so because of his relationship with the Knicks new President, Leon Rose. Rose was Thibbs’ agent while Rose was at CAA. And while the Knicks did interview 11 people, many believed it was Thibodeau’s job to lose. Though I have seen mixed reactions to the hiring, this is my opportunity to give my point of view as the only the Knicks fan in the world. Without further ado, let’s start with The Bad and end with The Good.
The mixed reactions to the hiring start with what many believe to be Thibodeau’s perceived weaknesses. I say perceived because many, like me, haven’t exactly studied Thibbs coaching style through his time with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. But hearsay, from stuff that I have read, won’t stop me from offering my opinion – that’s what we do here.
The one thing I read most about was his decision to play his best players big minutes at an alarming rate. To the point of exhaustion, depending on who you talk to. That was brought up during his interviews when he faced the media for first time. His logic was that you want to match the best players on your team against the minutes played by the best players on other teams. Makes perfect sense, as he stated the best players are usually the ones on the list of highest minutes. Still, it is something that has stayed with him and impacted him in a negative way.
Another negative has been his inability to relate to young stars due to his style of coaching, which came about during his time in Minnesota. It is known that the star players on the team, mainly Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins were not big fans of his, which lead to him being let go by the Timberwolves a year after taking them to the playoffs. Thibbs is known as a hard-nosed coach and that doesn’t play well with millennials… or so I hear.
He is the winningest head coach to be hired by the Knicks since probably Larry Brown, who won an NBA championship with the Detroit Pistons before landing the Knicks job. That is great in my eyes, as the Knicks have tried all types of head coaches before, ranging from player coaches known for having great relationships with other players they have coached, to guys hand-picked for running a certain offense… here’s looking at you Phil Jackson. Either way, none of the choices have worked and some have left the franchise worse than when they got there.
The trait that most confounds me and is also brought up a bunch about Thibodeau is his development of players. Some see it as a negative while others will tell you that he made bad teams better. To me that’s development, even if your talking individual players or for the team as a whole. I consider this trait to be on the positive because if your a fan of the team, you want your team to play well and make the playoffs. As we have seen with the Bulls and Timberwolves, there is no doubt he made those teams better.
The last thing I think it is as important, is his relationship with Leon Rose. The negative about Thibbs was his relationship with the front office while with the Bulls, while he also had issues in Minnesota during his end there as his decisions during his time as president of operations and coach lead to questions about his ability to run a basketball team in that capacity. The reason its on my good list is because of Leon Rose, who knowns Thibodeau about as well as anybody in basketball and could help him in ways that others couldn’t. Getting the right people around Thibodeau will be important while also allowing the head coach to bring in people he has trust in. Trust is important when you take into account how the head coach and front office want to build a team.
Tom Thibodeau will make the Knicks better, how much better will be determined by the development of players the team has with the inclusion of players, via the draft or free agency, that can play the way this coach likes to play. Thibbs is known as a defensive coach but with his affection to analytics as of late, will help bring this team into the new era of basketball. I’m excited but then again, these are the Knicks.
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