Knicks Coaching Search To Begin with Tom Thibodeau as First Option

Kris Pursiainen

Per Shams Charania and Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, the New York Knicks are gearing up to find themselves a head coach for the 2020-2021 NBA season. Tim Thibodeau, formerly the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, and a Knicks assistant from 1996 to 2003, is currently leading the race. When the Knicks brought on Leon Rose as their new President of Basketball Operations, I wrote here about how the move meant they might begin to consider Thibodeau for their head coaching vacancy. 

Thibodeau, in almost eight full seasons coaching the Bulls and Timberwolves, won nearly 59% of his games. He led the Bulls to playoff appearances each year from 2010 to 2015, even making the Eastern Conference finals in 2011. With Minnesota, Thibodeau set up the trade that netted the franchise Jimmy Butler and consequently a playoff appearance in 2018, ending the team's 14-year run without a trip to the postseason. Thibodeau would be taking on one of the most demanding head coaching jobs in the league if he were to join New York; a position which is also infamous for paying those who hold it for more years of work than they actually do. 

Interim head coach Mike Miller has left a "strong impression" throughout his time with Westchester and New York on the organization, especially with his work with the team as its head coach following the mid-season firing of David Fizdale. It is expected that the team will give Miller a chance to interview to remain in his current position; something that would only be right, even if the team is already set on another candidate.

The Knicks are expected to be reach a decision sometime in the next few weeks. Their interview process will also include Kenny Atkinson, former head coach of the Brooklyn Nets - and another former Knicks assistant. The list of candidates given so far by Charania and Vorkunov can demonstrate to fans that Rose is interested in developing the team's young talent while still acquiring veteran players to help the team win games. This exact philosophy sounds like the goal the front office had in mind last year when it made its shopping spree in free agency, but the flexibility negotiated into those deals will allow Rose and his new front office to start essentially from scratch - and build around the young players which he decides he wants to keep in house. 

If Thibodeau is able to adapt his philosophies to the modern NBA, he should be in a position to succeed as the head coach of the New York Knicks. His defensive philosophies were as new to the league in 2012 as some of the offensive philosophies we see today are. With an open mind, Thibodeau should be able to apply his vast knowledge of the game of basketball to finding a way to get the group of guys he will have handed to him by Leon Rose to be competitive, no matter how many of those players are veterans. A primary comes with Thibodeau's management of his players' minutes — a philosophy which he did not change while in Minnesota, despite the rest of the league moving towards the preservation of their team's stars. If Thibodeau can modernize his talent for coaching and convince Leon Rose he has done so, the job may well be his.

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