The New York Knicks finally have a new head coach.
The worst kept secret in the NBA is finally a reality as the New York Knicks have hired Tom Thibodeau as their 31st head coach in franchise history. Known as “Thibs” around the league, the New Britain native will be coaching the team he rooted for as a kid in nearby Connecticut, and where he coached as an assistant from 1996-2003.
After several last minute reports about other candidates potentially pulling into the lead for the job, Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Saturday that the Knicks are finalizing a five-year deal to hire Thibodeau. Jonathan Macri of Sports Illustrated reported in February that there was a 90% chance the team would hire the former Bulls and Timberwolves coach after Leon Rose was named team president.
Tom Thibodeau has a track record of turning teams into winners
The 62-year-old coach has an impressive resume dating back to his time with the Chicago Bulls where he turned a young team with potential into a 62-win club during his first year on the job. The Bulls made the playoffs in each of the five seasons he led the team, winning at least 50 games three times.
After leaving Chicago, Thibodeau accepted an increased role of responsibility with the Minnesota Timberwolves where he was named head coach and president of basketball operations in 2016. There, he took a 29-win team and turned them into a 47-win contender by his second season along the sidelines.
Minnesota eventually fired the spirited coach midway through his five-year contract after a fallout with star guard Jimmy Butler led to Butler’s trade ten games into the 2018-19 season.
New York has been looking for a stable presence at the head coaching position since Jeff Van Gundy abruptly left the team in 2001. The team has cycled through 12 coaches, including interim appointments, over the past 18 seasons. Most recently, David Fizdale was fired just 22 games into his second year of his five-year contract.
Interim coach Mike Miller did an admirable job filling in for Fizdale at the end of the 2019-20 season. It is believed that he will retain a position with the organization. Miller was one of eleven candidates to interview with the Knicks for the lead role.
New York also considered former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, who reportedly had strong internal support for the job. Jason Kidd reportedly “wowed” team brass during his interview. In the end, Thibodeau’s connection to Rose seemed to be too much for others to overcome.
The Knicks are currently in offseason mode as the majority of the NBA resumes play in Orlando. While the NBA is considering a potential second bubble in Chicago for the “Delete 8” teams to conduct workouts and scrimmages, the Knicks seem reluctant to participate. Ideally, the team would be allowed to host informal workouts in New York, where Thibodeau can have his first chance to work with the young roster.
Mike Woodson, who is the only Knicks coach to leave town with a winning record this century, is considered a favorite to land an assistant role on Thibodeau’s staff.