Making the early case for New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau to win NBA Coach of the Year.
Perhaps a bold statement this early into his tenure, but I believe Tom Thibodeau will go down as one of the greatest New York Knicks coaches of all time. For now, I can only speculate that he is the front runner for 2021’s NBA Coach of the Year honors.
It’s almost baffling how quickly he’s been able to turn a team with limited talent and resources into a legitimate playoff contender to-be. Although I’m clearly biased here, if we look into the other coaches who would also be in consideration for the award, all I come up with are reasons why they shouldn’t win it over Thibs. While the season is still young and things can change in the blink of an eye, let’s compare apples to apples and see exactly why Coach of the Year might be one of the few awards some Knicks personnel can achieve this year.
Tom Thibodeau is making a difference
Let’s call it how it is: Thibs is doing much more with way less available to him. The roster as a whole is far inferior to all title-contending teams and that’s before taking into consideration the injuries the team has endured so far. New York is winning games they shouldn’t be with mix-and-match lineups.
They say respect comes from admiration and fear, and boy, does that saying ring true when it comes to the players and Thibs — these guys play their hearts out for the man for all 48 minutes on the floor and he’s been able to coax talent out of guys that were seen as bottom-of-the-rotation players prior to this season.
Thibs spent his early years as an assistant under arguably one of the best coaches of all time in Gregg Popovich and has since taken a page out of Pop’s handbook by playing to a player’s strengths and covering up their weaknesses with the strength of the man next to him on the floor.
Regarding his competition, the coaches I’d consider for this award are Doc Rivers, Steve Clifford, Nate Bjorkgren, Monty Williams, Frank Vogel, and Ty Lue. When we compare other first-year coaches with Thibs, we must look at how long the roster’s core has been together prior to the coach joining the team.
Doc Rivers took over what has been seen as a legitimate title contender for 3 seasons now, but for whatever reason has always fallen short. Needless to say, the 76ers have had all the talent you could ask for on a team that has also had two years to start the gelling process.
Ty Lue has a top-3 player in the league, alongside another top-15 player and a smorgasbord of high-level role players surrounding them. Coach Bjorkgren might have the weakest roster of the ones mentioned so far, which sports two former All-Stars and has made the playoffs in each of the past five seasons.
Frank Vogel’s Lakers have some guy named LeBron who is pretty ok, alongside his buddy Anthony who’s maybe just a little bit less ok. Monty Williams has a superstar scoring phenom in Devin Booker, a budding star center in Deandre Ayton, and a future Hall-of-Famer in Chris Paul.
The closest team to the Knicks’ talent level would be the Orlando Magic and they’ve been rebuilding ever since they lost Dwight Howard and still haven’t been able to figure it out. They are overachieving so far and will most certainly come back down to earth and settle into their comfy, cozy 8th seed spot with a first-round exit in the playoffs.
The way I see it, Coach of the Year is Tom Thibodeau’s to lose at this point.