Is Tom Thibodeau Exactly What NY Knicks Need to Succeed?

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2014

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 07: Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls yells at a referee during a agme against the Phoenix Suns at the United Center on January 7, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Suns 92-87. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Tom Thibodeau would be exactly what the New York Knicks need. You know, if he wasn't already under contract with the Chicago Bulls and didn't carry himself with an air of confidence and autonomy New York's front office despises.

So, really, coach Thibs isn't exactly what the Knicks need.

That doesn't mean he wouldn't be worth a look if unemployed. You have to look when a coaching name this big becomes available.

Your mom told you not to touch that hot stove, so you had to touch it. Kate Upton told you to stop stalking her on Twitter with photoshopped pictures of you and her vacationing in Fiji, so you kept digitally altering snapshots to make you two look like a happy couple. 

You get the point. 

But Thibs isn't available. And what the New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence says the Knicks are doing is illegal: 

There are rumblings around the Chicago Bulls’ offices these days that Tom Thibodeau already has a deal in place to coach the Knicks next season.


You can just imagine the fallout if a Thibodeau-Knick deal were to be proven true. There wouldn’t be just a major tampering case here, but Thibodeau would face sanctions from the NBA, possibly preventing his move to the Garden.

Already notorious for chasing OPP (other people's players), the Knicks have apparently graduated to OPC, a less-than-respectable practice encrusted with flaws.

Coach Thibs, to his credit, denied the report.

"That stuff is ridiculous," he opined, via the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson. "First I was being traded. I couldn't care less about that stuff. I love the fighting spirit of this team. That's all I'm thinking about.''

Start thinking about the Knicks, Thibs. Not because you'll be meandering their sidelines come next fall, but because this isn't going away. 

Knicks rumors, however absurd, never do.

The "D" Word

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 25: Head coach Mike Woodson of the New York Knicks yells at his players during the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder  in an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on December 25, 2013 in New York City. The Thunder
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

No, not (James) Dolan, the other "D" word—defense.

Thibodeau is known for coaching defense, and justifiably so. His disciplined scheme can, at times, run itself. He's so good, I swear I saw Carlos Boozer play lock-down defense once or twice.

Mike Woodson—you know him, right?—was touted as a defensive expert. If we hold him to that title, he's been a letdown.

Since Woodson arrived in 2011-12—first as an assistant—the Knicks have finished in the top 10 of defensive efficiency once, which was incidentally his first season in New York. Dating back to his days with the Atlanta Hawks, Woodson, through six seasons, never led a top-10 outfit.

Below are the defensive rankings each of the teams he's been associated with have tallied:

Mike Woodson's "Defensive Savvy"
SeasonTeamDef. Rtg. Rank
2013-14 (thus far)Knicks24
Via basketball-reference.

Some defensive specialist.

Since taking over the Bulls in 2010-11, Thibs' teams have never finished outside the top six in defensive efficiency. Top. Six. And they've finished in the top two or better three times. In four seasons.


Personnel has a lot to do with success, but Thibs, like any other coach, has defensive liabilities on his team. The Knicks haven't been a defensive force under Woodson these last two seasons, and while they're playing a lot better recently, anything short of an Eastern Conference Finals berth could spur change.

Ringing in said change with a true defensive specialist wouldn't be the worst idea in the world if he becomes available.

Just saying.

Carmelo's Support

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 12:  Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls talks to Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks  during a game on April 12, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees th
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Why do the Knicks do anything anymore? To appease Carmelo Anthony.

Well, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, prying Thibs out of Chicago might be the big-name addition that could keep 'Melo in New York indefinitely: 


Don’t forget he’s another CAA star client who already has some Knicks history after his stint as an assistant on Jeff Van Gundy’s staff. No one I’ve consulted, furthermore, thinks that trying to bring in the famously demanding Thibodeau would dissuade Melo from re-signing with the Knicks, who, remember, can still pay their star forward $30 million more than anyone else to stay in a city he adores.

If Anthony is on board with Thibodeau's style and becomes available, the Knicks would be wise to take a look. And then sign him (if possible).

Maybe Thibs' defense-first mentality is just what Anthony, who has never posted a defensive rating under 102, needs. And since the Knicks have made it clear they need Anthony, what ever he needs would be their command.

About Those Minutes

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: Head Coach Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls draws up a play against the New York Knicks during the game on December 11, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and a
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

All right, that's enough trumpeting. Thibs isn't perfect. Like all coaches, he has flaws, one of which comprises a tendency to overwork his players.

The recently traded Luol Deng led the NBA in minutes per game the last two seasons, averaging 39.4 and 38.7 minutes per game, respectively. Joakim Noah, fragile as ever, also logged a whopping 36.8 minutes per game last season, battling through plantar fasciitis most of the year.

Nothing suggests that players outright hate Thibs for his minutes-heavy style. Much of it, admittedly, was out of necessity if the Bulls wanted to remain competitive.

Derrick Rose hasn't been the poster child for durability since 2011-12. Until recently, the Bulls were all about competing. About remaining in the hunt. Staying relevant dictated Deng and Noah, among others, play extensive minutes.

That win-at-all costs philosophy wouldn't work in New York, where Woodson is already criticized for playing 'Melo Thibodeauian-like minutes (39.2 a night).

The Knicks are a fragile bunch, pieced together with frail bodies, most notably those of Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and, for this season at least, Raymond Felton. Coaching these Knicks would demand Thibs show restraint, something he's not known for.

Could he adjust to "minutes caps?" Would he even want to?

That Other "D" Word

Sep 25, 2013; New York, NY, USA; President and CEO of cablevision systems corporation and executive chairman of The Madison Square Garden company James Dolan speaks during a press conference to announce the 2015 NBA All-Star weekend in New York City at In
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Time to move out of "if" territory and into the realm of "why" and "how."

Why would Thibodeau coach the Knicks? Because he was interested and available. How would Thibs, who is under contract through 2016-17, become available? Because his relationship with Chicago's front office deteriorated.

Why could it have deteriorated? Lack of control.

"I had a chance to voice my opinion," Thibodeau said of the Bulls trading Deng, via ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell "Their job is to make financial decisions, to make player personnel decisions, and things of that nature. Their job is to do that. My job is to coach the guys that are here. That's the way it works."

That's Thib-speak for, "Those penny-pinching quitters gave up on this season." More or less, at least.

Thibs' relationship with Bulls general manager Gar Forman and the front office has been well documented and can be described as "strained" at best. He clearly wants more say. More control. And if that's the case, New York isn't the place for him.

Thibs isn't the right fit.
Thibs isn't the right fit.Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Think back to other central figures in New York's checkered past. There was Donnie Walsh, the cap-managing savant who left after being subjected to Dolan's impulsive iron fist for too long. Then there was Mike D'Antoni, who resigned after Dolan wouldn't bring in players that suited his system.

Most recently, there was Glen Grunwald, who was shown the door on the eve of this season basically because Dolan wanted a bigger name and practiced face in his stead.

Dolan never changes. For anyone. Thibs will come waltzing through New York's door only to find his hands are tied tighter than they ever were in Chicago.

Until Dolan actually has an epiphany, no strong-willed coach like Thibodeau will be a good fit for the Knicks. Their arrival would only incite more drama. More controversy.

What the Knicks, what Dolan needs is a coach like Woodson, if not Woodson himself. Someone prepared to sacrifice everything for owner and team, no matter what. A glorified puppet, if you will.

Thibs is better than that, unfit to partake in Dolan's sick and twisted managerial games, rendering him a lackluster fit working alongside an owner and front office that don't value those who wish to think for themselves.

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.


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