Yaron Weitzman of the New York Post reported Thibodeau was skeptical of Randle until meeting him for the first time, coming away "impressed" with the young forward.
Randle has turned that first impression into an ascent to stardom, averaging 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists while making his first All-Star team. Thibs has essentially handed over the keys to the Knicks offense to Randle, and the Knicks are a surprising 19-18 at the All-Star break as a result.
"I will say this about Thibs, he's a tough coach if you don't like to be coached or if you don't like to play or do things the right way, then he's tough," Randle said on The Old Man and the Three podcast. "Thibs is a guy that... just expects a certain level of professionalism, he expects you to do things the right way, be prepared and do things the right way on a day-to-day basis, and if you don't want to do that, then it's gonna be tough.
"Honestly, man, he's not as much of a hardass as people think he is. The dude is super cool, like you can talk to him. He's gonna kill me if he sees this, but he really is soft. You can talk to him. Thibs is dope. Honestly, he’s a players' coach. This is the most fun that I've had as far as playing in the league, for sure."
The Knicks have managed to find a middle ground between the immediate contention Thibodeau wanted and a long-term view of the front office, thanks in large part to the buy-in of guys like Randle, RJ Barrett and impressive rookie Immanuel Quickley.
While it may not be likely that the Knicks continue winning at this pace, it's a testament to Thibodeau's ability to coach and Randle's commitment to getting better that they're even in playoff contention.