Leon Rose Said All the Right Things in His Public Debut

Alex Wolfe

An introductory press conference is, admittedly, an extremely low bar to clear when it comes to new hires for the Knicks. If introductory press conferences were worth much of anything, David Fizdale would already be working towards his first Knicks championship in the NBA bubble.

That said, Leon Rose managed to say all the right things in his first availability with the New York media, hitting all of the proper notes in yesterday's introductory Zoom press conference presenting Tom Thibodeau as the new head coach of the Knicks.

There has been reporting dating back to before the NBA shutdown that the Knicks under Rose might be looking to add veteran talent — including former Rose client Chris Paul — in order to jump-start the team's fortunes and put the Knicks on the road to contention sooner than later.

Rose, however, was adamant that there isn't a hard deadline for the Knicks to get better, and that they're willing to see this process through to truly build a winner.

“We have not set a timeline," Rose said. "We are taking it one day at a time. We felt that Tom was that one coach that could take us from development to becoming a perennial winner. And as Tom said earlier, that happens one step at a time. 

"And at the moment, we don’t know exactly what the roster will be moving forward. We have decisions that we have to make. But the important thing is to instill the culture, focus on the development, and take it from there.”

Ah, yes. "Culture." "Development." Perhaps the most sought-after words for fans of a team that has had a ton of turnover and very little in the way of actual results in so long. 

So long has it been since the Knicks last saw success, that the reportedly re-hired Mike Woodson — coach of the last Knicks team with a winning record in 2012-13 — has been fired as head coach of the Knicks, served four years as an assistant under Doc Rivers with the LA Clippers, and took two years off before being brought on to Thibodeau's staff.

Still, Rose said the right things in terms of not rushing the process in New York. Whether he follows through with his actions remains to be seen.

As far as the actual process of choosing Thibodeau out of the vast pool of candidates, Rose made sure to stress that the process of selecting the Knicks' new head coach was every bit as exhaustive as the nearly-two-month timeframe would make it appear — despite his well-documented previous relationship with Thibodeau ahead of time.

"Obviously the relationship gives me a comfort level, in knowing Tom for that long," Rose said. "But going through the process and really evaluating all aspects of everything, and realizing Tom was the perfect candidate for this job from the standpoint of, that he’s going to demand accountability, he’s going to have development, and he’s going to create a winning culture. 

"There’s no doubt that our relationship gives me a level of comfort. But I know, and I’ve watched him work over the last 20 years, and the fact that he’s won everywhere he’s been was an overriding factor."

Rose also made sure to get across that not only did his relationship with Thibodeau influence the coaching search, but also the relationships that other members of the front office had with other candidates. Meaning, according to Rose, this coaching search was actually a race and not just a coronation.

“I guess obviously, since we selected him, that reaffirmed (that Thibodeau was the best candidate)," Rose said. "But just to be clear, you know, going into this search, we had an open mind. There’s other coaches in this search that I and others have had relationships with over the years, but yeah, no question, going through the process and going through all this affirmed thoughts that I’ve had about Tom and feelings I’ve had about Tom as a coach. And that’s why we had to do the process, that’s why we had to go through all the things we went through, was in order to make the final decision.”

With the as-yet-unofficial hiring of Mike Woodson broken by The Athletic's Shams Chanaria as the press conference was in process, Rose also shed a light on how some of the interviews by the new-look Knicks front office gave perspective not just in the eventual selection of Thibodeau as the coach, but on the roster as a whole, and, apparently, some of the faces that will populate Thibodeau's bench as assistants.

“I think that was one of the real benefits of the coaching search," Rose said. "We met with a variety of coaches with different levels of experience, with different philosophies, and with different opinions on our team. So it was really educational for me and insightful for me to be able to have a deep dive with all of the coaches that we spoke to, and to hear all the different thoughts and opinions, as well as, obviously having Scott (Perry) here to be able to give me his opinion on the team and the other people in the front office."

Of course, finally, Rose had to let the world know that he feels good about the Knicks, because what would an introductory press conference be without a quick platitude?

"With regard to where we are right now, I’m really thrilled about today, I’m thrilled about where we are," Rose said. "I feel really good about where we’re going.”

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