Tom Thibodeau Hired as Knicks Head Coach on Reported 5-Year Contract

Paul KasabianSenior Contributor

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, April 5, 2018, in Denver. The Nuggets won 100-96. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Tom Thibodeau is officially the new head coach of the New York Knicks, the team announced on Thursday.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Saturday that the Knicks and Thibodeau were on the verge of finalizing a five-year contract for the 62-year-old to return to the NBA and fill the team's head coaching vacancy.

"Tom Thibodeau is a proven winner who gets the most out of the players and teams that he has coached," said team president Leon Rose. "He will bring leadership, accountability and a hard-working mentality to our organization. We are excited to bring him back to New York and look forward to collaborating with him and his staff toward a successful future."

Thibodeau takes over for interim coach Mike Miller, who replaced the fired David Fizdale in December.

"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," said Thibodeau. "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."

This comes one day after Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported contract negotiations between Thibodeau and New York had stalled because Knicks owner James Dolan had been unwilling to meet the Connecticut native's contract requests. 

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The New York Post's Marc Berman reported on Friday that Thibodeau still had a "65 percent" chance of landing the job, however.

According to Ian Begley of SNY, the Knicks began informing other other candidates of their decision on Saturday.

Shams Charania and Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic reported May 27 that Thibodeau was "atop the list of targets" for Rose in his coaching search.

Thibodeau was an NBA assistant coach from 1989 to 2010, including a stint with the Knicks from 1996 to 2004. After winning an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008 as their associate head coach, he was hired by the Chicago Bulls as their head coach in 2010 and proceeded to go 60-22 with NBA MVP Derrick Rose leading the way. The Bulls lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Unfortunately, injuries took their toll on the Bulls for the rest of Thibodeau's tenure, although the Bulls won 45 or more games and made the playoffs in each of his final four Windy City seasons. Of note, Rose suffered a torn ACL in the 2011-12 playoffs and missed the entire 2012-13 campaign.

The Bulls fired Thibodeau in 2015, but he wasn't out of work for long as the Minnesota Timberwolves hired him in 2016 to be their head coach and president of basketball operations.

Thibodeau's Minnesota tenure did not go as well, as the Wolves went 97-107 in two-and-a-half seasons under his watch. Minnesota did make the 2018 playoffs after a 45-37 regular season but fell to the Houston Rockets in the first round.

The Wolves also dealt with some in-house issues during Thibodeau's tenure, namely some problems between Jimmy Butler and the Wolves' young stars, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Butler was eventually traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in November 2018, and the Wolves let Thibodeau go after a 19-21 start in 2018-19.

Thibodeau has a reputation for playing his starters large amounts of minutes. Rose averaged 37.4 minutes per game in his MVP season, and the Butler-Wiggins-Towns trio all averaged above 35 minutes during his Wolves tenure. He also is known for coaching great defensive teams, with his Bulls finishing top five in defensive efficiency from 2010 to 2014, per ESPN.com.

Strong defense formed the Knicks' identity during their last sustained run of success in the 1990s, when they made the NBA Finals twice. In that respect, Thibodeau can help New York back to its roots as the team looks to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13.

Thibodeau is the 13th head or interim coach for the Knicks since Jeff Van Gundy resigned in 2001.  

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