“It’s a dream come true for me,” said Thibodeau. “This is my dream job. … Maybe part of that, I grew up in Connecticut. My dad, my family, we grew up as Knicks fans. I’ve been there before, I have a great understanding of New York. I think we have the best city in the world, the best arena and the best fans. I was there during the 90s and it was an amazing experience. ”
For the first time in nearly eight months, the Knicks officially have a permanent head coach. They announced it on day one of the 22 NBA team reboot, as the Knicks try to restart their dead franchise that has missed the playoffs for seven consecutive years.
Larry Brown once called the Knicks a “dream job” and left after a 17-65 disaster. Thibodeau is a former assistant coach from the glory days of the 1990s who went on to become a trademark coach with the Bulls and even broke the 13-year-old playoff drought in Minnesota in 2018.
But now Thibodeau can face a bigger task with James Dolan’s dying Knicks. Asked how to remedy an eternal mess, Thibodeau didn’t hesitate to mention a championship the team hasn’t won for 47 years.
“You don’t do major jumps without going through every step,” he says. “So I think the first step is to establish the work ethic and how we want to play. There is a lot of work to be done. One of the most important things when you study a team is just to look at efficiency, and when you see your [net rating] is a minus-6.54, you realize that there is a lot of work. And hopefully we can get the players to play for each other and start to develop these habits.
“Of course the ultimate goal is to bring a championship back to the city, where it’s synonymous with victory and championships, and that’s New York. ”
Knicks president Leon Rose will be on the spot if Thibodeau’s old-fashioned ways don’t work. Rose, her former agent at the Creative Artists Agency, said there was “a comfort level” in hiring Thibodeau because of their long-term relationship.
Rose called Thibodeau, 62, “the perfect candidate for this job in terms of his going to be held to account, he’s going to have development and he’s going to create a winning culture.”
“We hired not only a great basketball coach, but also an elite coach,” Rose said. “His principles and goals embody everything that Knicks basketball stands for.”
On Saturday, Thibodeau agreed to the terms of a five-year deal. Some league insiders believe the deal could be worth at least $ 25 million – even with a pandemic cut that will likely result in his Knicks debut without the presence of fans.
Thibodeau thanked Dolan in his prepared remarks and listed 15 coaches he had taken snippets of – from Jeff Van Gundy to Bill Musselman. And Thibodeau called the former Knicks coaches he worked with “the best staff ever.” Guys like Brendan Malone, Don Chaney, Jeff Nix, Steve Clifford, Andy Greer, Mike Malone – many head coaches who are in the league today. ”
Thibodeau brought the Timberwolves to the playoffs, but accusations he had not been in touch with young Minnesota players led to his dismissal in January 2019.
Thibodeau declined to go into details regarding Minnesota.
“It was more of a total rebuild, a team that hadn’t won much for a long time,” he said. “So I think you benefit from every experience, but every experience is different.”
Sources said Thibodeau was intrigued by the potential Houston opening, but said he was drawn to the Knicks because of the flexibility of the course and the richness of their draft picks (top seven players in the four next draft).
“The top three reasons I was so attracted to this position were the current roster that we now have is young and talented and there is room for growth,” said Thibodeau. “It’s exciting for me. Second, it’s working for Leon and Wes [William Wesley], two people I have known for a very long time. And third, all the draft picks that have been acquired as well as the ceiling space. We have many ways to improve the team. ”
Thibodeau tried to dispel his reputation as a basketball-obsessed drill sergeant with no humor and no other life. He joked this longtime Knicks writer, saying, “I can’t believe you’re still here” and denied all he did while on unemployment was visit other teams’ practices – which he did a lot.
“I’ve been on vacation several times,” said Thibodeau. “I know people don’t think I’m doing this. But I escaped and lay on a Miami beach for a few weeks. ”
The Knicks interviewed 11 candidates for seven weeks, but Thibodeau was flagged as the favorite the entire time.
“We did our due diligence in this research,” Rose said. “We were open-minded and heard from many diverse candidates with diverse philosophies. The thoroughness of the research is what we felt the fans deserved. We wanted to do it right. “