4. Why Tom Thibodeau is the right hire for the Knicks: He has coached young teams to relevance
The second knock against Tom Thibodeau is that he hasn’t been able to connect with his young players. This complaint was lodged after he failed to last three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, which played home to two former No. 1 overall selections in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
That certainly offers reason for skepticism, but lest we forget: Tom Thibodeau has proven that he knows how to coach young teams to the playoffs.
The Chicago Bulls won 41 games in 2009-10 and I won’t attempt to convince you of that being insignificant. When Thibodeau took over as head coach, however, six of his best and most important players were 25 and under.
That list includes Derrick Rose (22), Omer Asik (24), Luol Deng (25), Joakim Noah (25), Taj Gibson (25), and Ronnie Brewer (25)—fiven of whom ranked in the top-seven on the team in minutes per game.
Asik would go on to become a key rotational asset in future seasons, and Jimmy Butler debuted and made his first All-Star Game appearance under Thibodeau.
Furthermore, Minnesota played its only meaningful basketball since 2004 under Thibodeau. Butler—again, a player developed by Thibodeau—may have been the veteran leader of the team, but Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins were both 23 years of age at season’s end.
If the Knicks plan to surround the young core with respected veterans who prioritize defense, Thibodeau has proven to know what to do with that type of roster.