You may have heard, but the Knicks concluded their month-plus long coaching search the other day and hired Tom Thibodeau to be the next coach of the team.
Of course, the next step after the coaching decision is announced is the introductory press conference, something Knicks fans are more than familiar with. There’s been four of them in the last six years!
Unfortunately, due to the United States sacrificing human lives on the coronavirus altar rather than just passing legislation requiring people to wear simple pieces of cloth over their faces, we were robbed of the traditional press conference and “hands on the ball” picture that has become a staple of the introductory Knicks press conference. Instead, the Knicks hosted a number of media members over Zoom to talk to Thibs, Leon Rose and Scott Perry.
What was said? Some stuff, but if you’re looking for some revolutionary quotes, you came to the wrong place.
Thibs led off by talking about how coaching the Knicks was his dream job. For once, I actually believe someone saying that!
“My father and family grew up as big fans,” Thibs said. “I think I experienced it during the ’90s — there was no better place to be than Madison Square Garden. So I love challenges, I love that city, I love the arena, I love the fans. I’m excited about the team, so I can’t wait to get going.”
Probably something I was most looking forward to was hearing what Thibodeau thought about the Knicks’ young players and his strategy on developing them, and there were some nuggets as far as that was concerned.
Tom Thibodeau specifically points out RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson as two players that will thrive under his coaching: pic.twitter.com/tRSnHcnC8a— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) July 30, 2020
Based on film and what he’s seen, he thinks RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson have bright futures! Cool! Thibs also stressed in a later question about Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina from the NY Post’s Marc Berman that he knows that some players take longer to develop than others, and that it’s important to understand that.
“They’re both young guys that have talent,” Thibs said of Knox and Frank. “That being said, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not making any real observations or evaluations until I get to be around them. Like most young players, there are growing pains that they go through, and there are steps that players have to take. And sometimes we tend to measure guys against guys that are already established, and you forget the steps that those guys had to take to get to where they are. So I think that’s an important part of it. But I think to understand how you can get there, by your work and your sacrifice and your commitment, I think one’s determination and their perseverance is critical to their development.”
All in all, he said all the right things there. When asked about his philosophies in Chicago and Minnesota by Howard Megdal of Sports Illustrated — including his high minute counts for players and traditional two-big alignments of previous teams — Thibs had encouraging things to say there, as well.
“I think when you look at the league, and you see the load management that’s gone on, it’s more positionally-based,” Thibodeau said. “I think that if you go back five years, you would see that — LeBron, Durant, Harden, the late Kobe Bryant. Those guys were all playing 30-35 minutes. So they would obviously be matched up there, if they’re on the floor.”
“I agree, totally, that the league has changed,” Thibodeau said of lineup composition. “You are seeing a lot more five-out, where [in the past] you’d see at least one big on every team, where everyone can shoot threes on the floor. And you’re seeing fewer post-ups.”
And what about the decision to hire Thibs over the multitude of other candidates? Leon Rose made it clear that the decision wasn’t personal, but insisted instead that Thibs just impressed him so much in interviews compared to others that it reinforced his ultimate decision to bring him on.
“I guess obviously, since we selected him, that reaffirmed it,” Rose said of the Thibs hire. “But just to be clear, you know, going into this search, we had an open mind. There’s other coaches in this search that I and others have had relationships with over the years, but yeah, no question, going through the process and going through all this affirmed thoughts that I’ve had about Tom and feelings I’ve had about Tom as a coach. And that’s why we had to do the process, that’s why we had to go through all the things we went through, was in order to make the final decision.”
Something else that was interesting — to me, at least — was Rose noting that he enjoyed getting perspectives from prospective coaches, young and old, which helped him to better understand his roster. And, ultimately, it looks like Mike Woodson made a strong enough case to get brought on “in a capacity.”
“I think that was one of the real benefits of the coaching search,” Rose said. “We met with a variety of coaches with different levels of experience, with different philosophies, and with different opinions on our team. So it was really educational for me and insightful for me to be able to have a deep dive with all of the coaches that we spoke to, and to hear all the different thoughts and opinions, as well as, obviously having Scott (Perry) here to be able to give me his opinion on the team and the other people in the front office.
Lastly, for those worried that Rose is going to throw the Knicks head-on into a rushed rebuild this offseason, he offered assurances there as well, indicating that Thibs wasn’t necessarily brought on to coach a contender (or pseudo-fake-not-at-all-contender).
“We have not set a timeline,” Rose said. “We are taking it one day at a time. We felt that Tom was that one coach that could take us from development to becoming a perennial winner. And as Tom said earlier, that happens one step at a time. And at the moment, we don’t know exactly what the roster will be moving forward. We have decisions that we have to make. But the important thing is to instill the culture, focus on the development, and take it from there.”
And that’s basically it! Plenty of platitudes to go around. It’s pretty hard to fail an initial press conference, and luckily Thibs and Rose managed to pass their first one with flying colors. Now the question just becomes if they’re just gonna talk about it, or be about it. Time will tell.