Tom Thibodeau discussed his last conversation with the late Kobe Bryant.
New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau exchanged text messages with the late Kobe Bryant only days before Bryant’s fatal helicopter accident. Kobe was seeking advice on coaching his daughter’s basketball team and was hoping to meet up with the NBA coach on his next visit to Los Angeles.
In a Q&A with the New York Post, Thibodeau recalled his last conversation with the NBA legend.
“The irony is probably about a week before, 10 days before [the helicopter crash], he had texted me, we were talking about the team he was coaching with his daughter’s team,” Thibodeau told the New York Post. “I had been going out to L.A. quite a bit to spend time with Doc [Rivers], and he asked me when I was coming out again, we were gonna get together. Really sad.”
While working as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers, Thibodeau fostered a relationship with a high-school-aged Bryant, working on his game at a nearby Saint Joseph’s gym.
In an interview from 2010, Kobe talked about how “crucial” Thibodeau was in helping him out as a young basketball player.
“He was crucial,” Bryant said via ESPN. “He was with me when I was 16 or 17 years old. Just doing drills and just working on ball-handling and just teaching me the game. He was there from Day 1.”
When you think of Kobe’s famous work ethic, it only makes sense that he would have gotten along with Coach Thibs, who is known to burn the midnight oil in preparing for opponents.
Thibodeau was introduced as the 31st coach in New York Knicks history this week. He reportedly signed a five-year contract worth over $20 million.
The New Britain native is hoping to turn around a franchise that hasn’t been a consistent winner since he was working as an assistant for the organization under Jeff Van Gundy in the late nineties.
Thibodeau told the New York Post he was in disbelief upon hearing about Bryant’s death.
“I watched his whole career,” Thibodeau said. “Just such an incredible person. He would have continued on to go great things in whatever he touched, because that’s just the way he was wired. It’s sad that he’s not here.”
Kobe Bryant, 41, passed away in January when a helicopter carrying eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, crashed under foggy conditions in Calabasas, California, approximately 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The group was traveling to a basketball tournament.
While the National Transportation Safety Board has released initial findings about the crash, the official cause is still under investigation.