The New York Knicks have finally ended their search for the team’s next head coach. After much speculation and a back-and-forth, the Knicks announced that Tom Thibodeau will be the next man up, as the organization looks to get out of what fees like an eternity of dark years.
Despite some criticism, Tibodeau seems to be a perfect fit for New York. Save for one or two other candidates at most, Thibodeau is probably the best bet for the Knicks at this point in time. Below we will look into why this might just prove to be the best decision the Knicks have made in the past few years.
For starters, Thibodeau is a proven winner. The last we saw him as a head coach was not too long ago with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Coach Thibs spent two and a half years with the organization, and despite a spell of tumultuous times, his stint was highlighted by the Timberwolves’ improbable playoff appearance in 2018, putting an end to a decade and a half-long postseason drought for Minnesota. The Wolves did end up losing in the first round, but there’s no denying that that was their most successful campaign in what feels like forever.
Before his time in Minnesota, Thibodeau was in charge of the Chicago Bulls. This was between 2010 and 2015, which was characterized by the Derrick Rose era in Chicago. In his first season at the helm, he led the Bulls to a 62-win season and took them all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals — the farthest this team has progressed in the postseason since the Michael Jordan-led Bulls won their sixth title in 1998.
Throughout his coaching career, Thibodeau holds an overall record of 352 wins against 246 losses. That’s good for an impressive .589 winning percentage.
Moreover, you also need to look at the structure of both teams he coached. The Wolves were built around Karl-Anthony Towns, who was just 23 when Thibodeau parted ways with Minnesota. Their second-best player, arguably, was Andrew Wiggins, who was also 23.
For the Bulls, Thibodeau’s franchise superstar at that time was a very young Derrick Rose, who was just 22 when Thibs took over in Chicago. For those who may have forgotten, the All-Star point guard won the MVP in Thibodeau’s debut campaign, making him the youngest ever winner of the esteemed individual award. Other prominent members of that particular squad included Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, who were both 25.
See a pattern emerging? Thibodeau has a knack for coaching teams built around young players to success. He did this in Minnesota (relatively) and in Chicago. The good news for the Knicks is that they too are a very young and promising team.
Right now, New York’s core includes a 25-year-old Julius Randle (who may be considered by some as a valuable trade asset), Mitchell Robinson (22), RJ Barrett (20), and Kevin Knox (20). Aside from Randle, the three other guys have a ton of potential that remains untapped. If the Knicks were looking for a coach that could aid in the development of a young and promising core that could emerge into relevance in the next few years, then Thibodeau certainly fits the bill.
Finally, we need to talk about defense, which for the most part, is what Thibodeau’s system is all about. Throughout his tenure in the league, this has been perhaps the most important aspect in his coaching style. Sure he had tremendous offensive weapons in Rose and Towns, but make no mistake about it, Thibodeau is a defense-first coach.
No one should underestimate the significance of defense in today’s free-flowing NBA. This is exactly what Thibodeau brings to the table for the Knicks. In New York he has at his disposal one of the best shot blockers in the league in Mitchell and potentially a great two-way player in Barrett, plus a defensive-minded guard in Frank Ntilikina. These have the makings of a defensive core that Thibodeau could bring the best out of. Thibs loves to build his team around defense, and he does appear to have the tools to do so in New York.
The Knicks have been awful over the past few seasons, and they’ve pretty much hit rock bottom already. As they always say, there’s nowhere to go but up from this point on, and perhaps Thibodeau is the right man to bring back this team to the glory days again.
Okay, fine, the glory days idiom is a stretch. At this point, the Knicks will be more than happy if they could just start winning again. Can Thibodeau help them toward this cause? Right now all signs are pointing to yes.