When the New York Knicks announced the hiring of Tom Thibodeau as head coach, some fans were worried what that might mean for the development of their younger players. After all, Thibs is an older coach, viewed by many as a “win now” kind of guy, and he traded away a number of young players for vets during his stint as coach-slash-president in Minnesota.
Team president Leon Rose has a plan to satisfy both Thibodeau’s desire to hire his own staff and the organization’s need to focus on player development. His plan, according to Ian Begley, is to hire way more coaches:
There is internal consideration in the organization to hire a significant number of player-development coaches for Thibodeau’s staff, per SNY sources.
Those coaches would be hired in addition to the assistant coaches who will work under Thibodeau.
Begley notes that David Fizdale had one of the smallest staffs in the league last season, so the Knicks are looking to rectify that in 2020-21. We already know Mike Woodson will be on the staff in some capacity, and the word on the street is that interim coach Mike Miller (who has ample player-development experience with the G League Westchester Knicks) will be retained as an assistant. Ed Pinckney, who has experience working with Thibodeau, is also being considered.
Outside of Thibs’ circle, well-regarded University of Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne’s name is being floated around for the Knicks’ staff. Payne is famed for his work with bigs.
In theory, this arrangement would mean everybody gets what they want: Thibs gets to bring in the guys he trusts, and the front office gets to hire coaches to work with the Knicks’ many younger players. There’s always a fine balance to strike when hiring assistants outside a head coach’s circle of trust, but that is where Thibs’ famously close relationship with Rose should pay dividends.
Personally, I’d like to see the Knicks inject some young blood into their coaching ranks. Thibodeau is 62, as is Woodson, and Miller isn’t exactly a young buck at age 55. Even candidates like Pinckney and Payne are 57 and 53, respectively. Rose did a fine job of mixing older scouting types with younger analytical minds when he built the front office, and taking the same approach with this expanded coaching staff could add some fresh perspectives.