Tom Thibodeau wants to be back coaching in the NBA next season, and he may be.
There have been a lot of image-rehab articles with a theme of “Thibodeau is a good coach who got a bad rap in Minnesota” coming out of New York media recently. That doesn’t feel like a coincidence (and it’s also wrong to think Thibodeau was blameless in Minnesota).
Thibodeau’s decade-long friendship with new Knicks president Leon Rose has made him the frontrunner for that job. Now comes a report from Marc Berman of the New York Post it’s not just the Knicks who are considering giving Thibodeau another chance.
While his reputation took a hit with the failure in bringing Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and allegedly mishandling young talent, sources told The Post the Nets and Houston will have strong interest, too. Houston’s Mike D’Antoni will be a free agent.
It appears Thibodeau would have interest in all three jobs. But the Knicks would get first crack at their former assistant coach since they won’t be competing in any potential playoffs… According to sources, Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving each like and respect Thibodeau, who coached them as a Team USA assistant.
While D’Antoni still has a job in Houston, he is in the final year of his contract few around the league expect he will be brought back for another season. Houston will move on.
Thibodeau’s name comes up a lot with the Knicks.
Thibodeau was being booed by the home fans when introduced before every game at the end in Minnesota, and attendance was dropping. The Timberwolves brought in Thibodeau as coach and GM to develop and elevate a young core around an elite center in Karl-Anthony Towns. Thibodeau is a win-now coach who leans on veterans, so executive Thibodeau traded a chunk of that young core — Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and draft picks — to Chicago to bring in his old friend Jimmy Butler. It was a big bet by Thibodeau and it paid off at first when the Timberwolves made the playoffs. Then things fell apart as Butler had issues with Towns — and more so former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins — and soon Butler was forcing a trade and torpedoing the Timberwolves season.
The Knicks are trying to build a core of young players and a culture that can be a foundation for winning in the future. Rose and the New York front office need to ask themselves: Is Thibodeau the best coach to do that? He has developed players before, with Jimmy Butler at the top of his list, but his old-school style has rubbed other players the wrong way. Plus, Thibodeau is not exactly analytics friendly, and his style is to lean on veteran players more able to help the team win now.
Who Rose hires to coach the Knicks will give a clearer understanding of what direction he wants to go in building the team.
In Brooklyn, the buzz around the league is Durant and Irving want Tyronn Lue as head coach, he is considered a clear frontrunner. Thibodeau’s name does not regularly come up for that job when other sources around the league are asked about it.
If Thibodeau is coaching in the NBA next season, it will be in New York. However, the Knicks and other teams have put coaching hires on hold until some resolution to the rest of the NBA season is figured out.