The City of New York while charming and beautiful is plagued with inconsistencies. The city is the home of the stock exchange which fluctuates on a day-to-day basis and no matter how many people claim they’ve mastered it’s nuances; nobody ever will. It’s filled with elegant and tasteful food options, but is one sketchy guy in a gray hoodie offering you a “true New York hot dog” away from giving you food poisoning. Despite all this, I’d argue nothing, yes nothing is more inconsistent in the “City That Never Sleeps” than the New York Knicks.
The Knicks were once the city’s pride and joy in the 1990’s but the 21st Century has been a hard pill to swallow. From the Isiah Thomas years to the supposed big three of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose the Knicks haven’t been able to put it together and have mostly struggled. This shows clearly in the roller coaster ride that is their head coaching position. The Knicks have had 14 head coaches since 2000, while they may be closing in on number 15. ESPN reported on July 25 that the Knicks are closing in on a five-year deal with former NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau to become the struggling franchise’s next head coach.
While, I openly admit, Thibodeau, who seemed to be the frontrunner from the start wasn’t my first choice, I am still happy with this decision. Thibodeau and his five-year deal bring exactly what new President Leon Rose needed to the franchise: stability.
The Knicks turbulence comes from instability. Thibodeau was a Knicks assistant from 1994-2002, during their obvious glory years. Since he’s left the Knicks only three of the franchises12 head coaches have made it into their third season. Thibodeau is expected to be the fourth.
But, what about Thibodeau the coach? What does he bring to the Knicks other than stability; the truth is he also brings consistency. Thibodeau, while not universally liked, is a consistent winner. In his first season as a head coach Thibodeau won 62 games with the Chicago Bulls, a 21 win improvement from the year before. Thibodeau also helped star point guard Derrick Rose become MVP that season. The next season the Bulls won 50 games in the infamous 66-game lockout season. Thibodeau would coach the Bulls for five successful seasons, never winning less than 48 games.
Thibodeau then went to Minnesota and led the Timberwolves to their first playoff appearance in 14 years when he coached the team to a 47-35 record in 2018. Thibodeau’s relationship eventually soured with now Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, eventually leading to Butler being shipped out of town and Thibodeau’s dismissal in January of 2019. Thibodeau’s resume speaks for itself.
Wherever Thibodeau goes, improvement and success has followed. The Timberwolves saw Zach Lavine and Karl Anthony-Towns grow immensely in Thibodeau’s tenure and saw success that the franchise hasn’t seen since Kevin Garnett donned their uniforms. Even when Thibodeau was dismissed, the Timberwolves sat at a respectable 19-21 record and only two games out of a playoff spot in a stacked Western Conference.
Tom Thibodeau is no Phil Jackson or Steve Kerr- that’s fine. The Knicks don’t need a Hall of Fame, home run hire at head coach; they need stability and improvement. Knicks fans aren’t starving for a championship at this point, they are starving for optimism, improvement and some sort of sustained success. Thibodeau has proven time and again, with both the Bulls and Timberwolves, that he is capable of doing that as a head coach.