Tom Thidodeau’s hiring as the head coach of the New York Knicks has drawn a mixed reaction. Here are three things fans can bank on.
Fans of the New York Knicks have been trapped in basketball purgatory for what feels like an eternity. For those keeping track, the Knicks haven’t experienced a taste of the postseason since 2012-2013—a season which was headlined by Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. They also haven’t achieved any real playoff success since their Finals runs of the late 1990s.
The franchise has a few young prospects, such as RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Kevin Knox, that help give fans a glimmer of hope for the future. However, with no notable draft capital and a stark void of star talent, the path toward relevance is difficult to see.
There is one concrete change in store for the 2021 version of the Knicks: Tom Thibodeau will be leading the franchise moving forward. While the head coaching hire drew mixed reactions from fans and analysts, there are a handful of things that we can count on. Let’s take a look at three of them:
Tom Thibodeau is a proven winner
Surprisingly enough, the notion of hiring a veteran head coach with a history of winning is a new concept in the recent history of the team.
New York’s most recent leader, interim bench chief Mike Miller, has coached only 44 NBA games and holds a .386 win percentage. Before him, Dave Fizdale coached in 205 games, winning only 34.6 percent of the time. Working backwards, Jeff Hornacek appeared in 277 games and recorded a .427 winning mark. Kurt Rambis contributed 229 game and a .284 percentage. Derek Fisher went for 136 games at a .294 winning clip.
The franchise must go all the way back to the Mike Woodson era to find a coach with real experience (Woodson appeared in 680 games as a head coach and won 46% of the time). For the record, this was also the last time the team found themselves as a postseason contender.
Tom Thibodeau will begin the 2021 season with 598 games as a head coach under his belt. He also holds a .589 win percentage. While working in New York will be his biggest challenge, he exceeded expectations (in terms of wins) in both previous stops in Chicago and Minnesota.
A record at .500 would virtually guarantee a playoff slot in a weak Eastern Conference. Winning at a 60 percent clip could secure home court in the earlier rounds.
Tom Thibodeau plays his starters heavy minutes
This is drawn both praise and ire from past fan bases. On the one hand, Thibodeau has always shown a commitment to having lineups on the court that give his team the best chance to win. On the other, it has led to injury concerns and rifts with star players.
I expect this philosophy has a chance to be a major positive in NYC. After all, the Knicks don’t exactly have an overwhelming amount of star power and ego. They also have a relatively young core.
If the Thibodeau experiment results in players like Barrett, Knox, and in particularly, Robinson, getting a consistent chance at playing time and development, it could help the team begin building a postseason contender outside of free agency.
This strategy will be a good thing for the Knicks. Unless, of course, it results in Taj Gibson playing heavy minutes at any point during the season.
Tom Thibodeau has a history of executing major moves
To be clear, these moves haven’t always resulted in good things for Thibodeau-led teams. However, that is the case for all NBA coaches and general managers. Drafting players and orchestrating trades often leads to mix results.
Thibodeau has the ability and experience to build rosters and work with opposing franchises. He was a key part of orchestrating the trade that sent Jimmy Butler from Chicago to Minnesota in 2017. He also landed the Timberwolves a first round pick for Ricky Rubio in 2017 and rebuilt them by sending Butler to Philadelphia in 2018.
He has also helped sign talents such as Derrick Rose, Jamal Crawford, and Lance Stephenson in free agency, while also locking up stars such as Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins to multi-year extensions.
Again, the point here isn’t necessarily that Thibodeau has a track record for always making the right move. He does, however, have the undeniable ability to manage a franchise though the accusation of All-Star caliber players.
This is a welcome sight for a team that hasn’t seen an All-Star since Kristaps Porzingis in 2017 and Carmelo Anthony in 2016.