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Tom Thibodeau 'Never Feels Pressure' With Knicks

With many believing the New York Knicks are about to raise the heat on his chair, Tom Thibodeau is keeping his cool as he enters a vital season in Manhattan.

If you can make it there ... there, in Frank Sinatra's words, being New York City, you'll make it anywhere. If you can't ... well, anywhere else is often unwilling to help you out. 

The previous head coach of the New York Knicks can tell you that much: none of the team's previous six head coaches (including 2016 interim boss Kurt Rambis) has held an NBA head coaching job since their metropolitan departure. It probably says more about the Knicks as a team than any of those individuals that they've employed six men as head coaches since 2012, but that's another story entirely.

Some believe that the incumbent Tom Thibodeau is destined to join that list sooner rather than later, as this season could mean worlds to his NBA future: Thibodeau was the relative toast of the town when he guided the Knicks to an improbable fourth-place finish in the 2020-21 Eastern Conference standings, but he perhaps exhausted any goodwill he had with the team's long-suffering yet loyal fanbase with a 37-win campaign that placed them six games out of the mere Play-In Tournament last season. 

The disappointing sequel has led many to place Thibodeau's name at or near the top of their "coaches on the hot seat" power rankings. Such pressure has only been raised, perhaps, by the fact the Knicks signed their most potent point guard threat in several seasons, inking Jalen Brunson on a $104 million, excuse-killing contract. 

Thibodeau, however, is apparently keeping his cool as the Knicks open their training camp activities in Tarrytown. 

"I’ve never felt pressure, ever,” Thibodeau said in a report from the New York Post. “See, when you put everything you have into your job, that’s all you can do. So I’ve never felt pressure. 

Others can say this, that, that ain’t happening here."

Thibodeau has perhaps been stationed on an NBA bench for so long (his first assistant job coming with the original Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989) that he's able to master supposed "coachspeak." It wouldn't be wise, after all, for him to admit to the Knicks' 29 rivals that he's facing a pressure-packed campaign. 

But Thibodeau appears to have discovered some blue and orange colored faith through supposedly meaningless basketball: he was pleased with the way the Knicks' de facto response to elimination, as the team went 12-7, including 7-3 in its final 10, after dropping a season-wrist 13 games below .500. 

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Thibodeau claimed it reminded him of the playoff season's group in his New York debut. That team went 15-4 in that same stretch before their first-round cameo against the Atlanta Hawks. 

“The thing that I’m proud of is that we finished the season like we did the first year,” Thibodeau said. “If you’re doing the right things every day, you should get better as the season goes along. Every team is going to hit adversity. The most important thing in life is to be mentally tough when you face adversity.”

Adversity would perhaps be a much more appropriate nickname than "Knickerbockers" ever could in the 21st century: Knicks basketball has often been absorbing the blows of one problem after another. This season's group is dealing with questions around their supposedly overpaid assets (including Brunson and fellow nine-figure men Julius Randle and RJ Barrett), as well as the failure to secure former Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell despite reigning as the supposed favorites for his services throughout the negotiation process. 

Thibodeau is looking to lean on the more optimistic side of hardwood surprises: he's hoping to make a similar run to that of last year's Eastern Conference champions.

“Things can change in this league very quickly,” he said. “They can go from good to bad very quickly, they can go from bad to good very quickly. Boston at the halfway mark was below .500 last year and they ended up in the finals. We started off 5-1, we hit that lull where we had a number of guys out, and that hurt us.

We have to find a way to win no matter who we have. Sometimes you can lose a key player and you may not be able to replace his talent level, but you can win with your defense, your rebounding, taking care of the ball, because those are team things.”

New York opens its preseason on Oct. 4 at home against the Detroit Piston (7 p.m. ET, MSG/TNT). 


Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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