Knicks Rumors: HC Interviews Outside of Tom Thibodeau Are Out of 'Courtesy'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2020

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau yells instructions to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Tom Thibodeau is reportedly the clear front-runner to be hired as the next head coach of the New York Knicks.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks are also expected to interview Kenny Atkinson, Mike Woodson and interim head coach Mike Miller, but a league source believes those would merely be "courtesy" interviews.

Thibodeau served as an assistant coach with the Knicks from 1996 to 2004 before head-coaching stints with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Knicks are not part of the NBA's 22-team return-to-play format amid the coronavirus pandemic, meaning they finish the 2019-20 season with a 21-45 record and miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year.

The team fired David Fizdale in December after a 4-18 start, and Miller went 17-27 in an interim capacity. That solid performance apparently earned him an interview, but all signs point to Thibodeau as the Knicks' preferred choice.

Thibodeau owns a career record of 352-246 as a head coach. In five seasons as head coach of the Bulls (2010-15), he went 255-139 and led them to the playoffs five times, but they were unable to get past the Eastern Conference Finals.

He went 97-107 in three years with the T-Wolves and brought them to the playoffs in 2017-18, ending a 13-year drought. Minnesota fired Thibodeau 40 games into the 2018-19 season after a 19-21 start.

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Among the other candidates, Atkinson is coming off a four-year stint as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. He went just 118-190, but he led Brooklyn to the playoffs last season and was on track to do so again this season before getting fired 62 games in.

The Nets were only 28-34 at the time, but that was without Kevin Durant for the entire season, and Kyrie Irving also missed most of the season because of injury.

Woodson was the Knicks' head coach for parts of three seasons from 2011-12 through 2013-14. He went 109-79 in New York and was the last coach to lead the Knicks to the playoffs in 2013 when they went 54-28.

Before his time with the Knicks, Woodson was head coach of the Atlanta Hawks for six seasons. Although he went just 206-286, he led Atlanta to the playoffs three times.

Woodson was an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers for four seasons after departing the Knicks, but he hasn't been in the league for the past two seasons.

Whoever lands the Knicks' head coaching job will have a major challenge and will be tasked with helping young players such as RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox II and Frank Ntilikina develop into contributors to a winning team.