The New York Knicks have hired Tom Thibodeau as their next head coach, the team officially announced on Thursday. Thibodeau will be the 10th full-time head coach the Knicks have had this century and he will replace interim coach Mike Miller, another candidate for the permanent job. The other candidates were informed on Saturday morning that they did not get the job. In an introductory press conference, Thibodeau, who previously served as an assistant with the Knicks, called the gig a "dream come true."
"This a dream come true for me," Thibodeau said in a Zoom press conference. "This is my dream job ... "Maybe part of that is I grew up in Connecticut. My father, my family, we grew up as Knicks fans. I think I experienced it during the '90s that there's no better place to be than Madison Square Garden. And so I love challenges, I love that city, I love the arena, I love the fans and I'm excited about the team."
Thibodeau has previously been the head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. His Chicago teams were largely successful, reaching the playoffs in each of his five seasons there and routinely finishing near the top of the league in defense. His Minnesota tenure was less successful, however, as star Jimmy Butler demanded a trade and young studs Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins stagnated. His tactics were criticized as outdated in Minnesota, but the Knicks seem to believe that he can modernize in New York, and he's excited to get started.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to return to this historic franchise as head coach and work alongside a talented front office that I have great trust in and respect for," Thibodeau said. "I know what New York is like when the Knicks are successful and there is nothing comparable. I look forward to being a part of what we are building here and can't wait to get to work."
Thibodeau's relationships in New York almost certainly played a part in his hiring. He is represented by CAA, where Knicks president Leon Rose once ran basketball operations. He was also a Knicks assistant from 1996-2004. On paper, that suggests that Thibodeau should be able to adjust to the pressures of New York fairly quickly. A coach's ability to work in concert with a front office is critical to his success, and the preexisting relationship between Thibodeau and Rose gives the Knicks a leg up on the front.
New York's coaching search was exhaustive. In addition to Thibodeau, Rose interviewed five former head coaches: Kenny Atkinson, Mike Woodson, Jason Kidd, Mike Brown and Miller, as well as five assistants without head-coaching experience: Ime Udoka, Chris Fleming, Pat Delaney, Jamahl Mosley and Will Hardy. Previous Knicks coaching searches have keyed in on specific, high-profile coaches early in the process with less than positive results, so Rose was determined to leave no stone unturned this time around.
Thibodeau will now inherit a Knicks team well stocked for the future. RJ Barrett, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, had a promising if somewhat uneven rookie year. He ended the season on a high note, averaging a fairly efficient 17.3 points per game in his final seven showings. Second-year center Mitchell Robinson broke Wilt Chamberlain's decades-old record for field goal percentage by making 74.2 percent of his shots. His incredible defensive upside surely appeals to Thibodeau after years of working with former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. For the first time since their downward spiral began, the Knicks are loaded with future draft capital, owning the Clippers' first-round pick and two future selections from the Dallas Mavericks in addition to all of their picks.
New York's (latest) rebuild is still in its early stages. No matter how lofty their ambitions when it comes to acquiring veteran stars, it will likely be a few years before the Knicks are ready to win at a high level. Whether he can wait that long remains to be seen, but in Thibodeau, the Knicks have found a coach that has built a winner before. If they manage the next several years correctly, he may just be able to do so again.