Knicks reportedly to start coaching search, Tom Thibodeau tops list

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With the NBA nearing a return in some format, one that could leave the 12th seeded Knicks home until next season, New York’s new president Leon Rose is cranking up his coaching search.

And Tom Thibodeau is on top of their list, reports Shams Charania and Mike Vorkunov at The Athletic.

The New York Knicks and president of basketball operations Leon Rose will soon embark on the search process for a new head coach and Tom Thibodeau is atop the list of targets, sources told The Athletic. The Knicks are believed to be targeting a decision in the next few weeks, sources said…

Former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson likely will also receive an interview, sources said. Atkinson and the Nets parted ways in March with the team at 28-34 and on the way to the postseason during a difficult fourth season at the helm. Atkinson helped turn the franchise around during his tenure, taking it from a 20-win team in 2016-17 to a playoff team last season and one that proved to be an attractive destination for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. He was a Knicks assistant for four seasons under head coach Mike D’Antoni.

Thibodeau, or Atkinson, or whoever gets the job, will be the Knicks’ sixth coach in six seasons. The new coach needs to create a culture and some sense of stability in a franchise that has had precious little of it since James Dolan took over running the team.

Tom Thibodeau wants to return to NBA coaching, and his decades-long friendship with Rose made him the frontrunner from the start.

Is Thibodeau the right fit? That depends. Thibodeau’s history is that of a win-now coach who leans on veterans (which led GM Thibodeau to make some questionable decisions in Minnesota). The Knicks are trying to build up a core of young players and a culture that can be a foundation for winning in the future. Is Thibodeau the best coach to do that? Thibodeau says he has grown and will bring a new perspective to his next job.

The Knicks have a young core but also feel they are well positioned to trade for a star if one becomes available. That kind of bold trade would be the Knicks way, this has never been a patient franchise willing to build slow and smart (as the Nets did, building a core with enough financial flexibility to attract Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving). A trade can work, if it’s the right star put into the right system with the right players around him.

Bottom line, whoever gets the Knicks job has a lot of work to do to build a winner. They just have to hope they are given enough time to do it.