In one of his first moves after becoming president of the New York Knicks, Leon Rose went out and got his guy to coach his team: Tom Thibodeau. Not so coincidentally, Rose had been Thibodeau’s agent at CAA.
Firing Thibodeau after two seasons would be admitting a mistake, one compounded by roster decisions last offseason that did not pan out. Rose isn’t ready to go there (potentially putting himself on the hot seat), and Adrian Wojnarowski bolstered earlier reports saying that Thibodeau is “safe” when speaking on Tuesday’s NBA Countdown on ESPN (hat tip Bleacher Report).
“People have speculated about the Knicks and Tom Thibodeau, who was just Coach of the Year last year. I’m told he is safe in New York. He’s got the support of ownership, Leon Rose the GM, and largely the locker room — the important players in the locker room. And one more thing, I’m told: He signed an original five-year deal to be coach of the Knicks. The fifth year was a team option, wasn’t guaranteed. I’m told that the Knicks picked up that fifth year over the summer after he won Coach of the Year.”
There had been reports Rose’s hand-picked front office power broker William Wesley was the one pointing his finger at Thibodeau (and doing so to owner James Dolan). However, it appears Thibodeau has support at all levels of the front office now.
Thibodeau will return next season to likely a very different roster, plus pressure to get the Knicks back in the playoffs and on a track toward contention (or at least good enough that free agents who could make the Knicks contenders would see potential in the roster). It will be a lot of work after a 35-44 season that sees the Knicks 12th in the East and not even in the play-in games.
Thibodeau’s aggressive, relentless style can wear on players after a few years, and they can tune him out. Thibodeau has to change that. He has to light a fire under Julius Randle (assuming Randle is back) and continue developing RJ Barrett (the team’s best player) and Immanuel Quickley. Most importantly, Thibodeau is a defense-first coach and the Knicks need to be back in the top 10 in the league next season.
Thibodeau will be back, but next season the pressure really will be on.