The New York Knicks hired a new head coach. Again. Tom ‘Thibs’ Thibodeau spent 12 seasons as an assistant coach with the Knicks during their glory days in the 1990s before going 352-246 in 7.5 seasons as a head coach with the Chicago Bulls (2010-2015) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (2016-19).
Thibodeau has a Sisyphusian battle ahead of him to turn around a once-glorious franchise. Since 2014-15, the Knicks have become the worst team in the NBA, including two seasons in which they went 17-65.
The Timberwolves fired Thibodeau, now 62, midway through last season after a 19-21 record.
NY KNICKS – SEASON RECORD (Since 2013)
The Knicks hired a defensive-minded coach who won 50-plus games only three times in his career. The Knicks won 50-plus games only once in the last 20 seasons (54-28 in 2012-13).
In his short tenure as a head coach, Thibs guided his teams to six playoff berths, where he has a 24-32 postseason record.
Fizdale Fizzle Out
The Knicks fired David Fizdale after only 22 games. The writing was on the proverbial wall since the first week of the season.
Fizdale seemed to be the fall guy and major target of owner James Dolan’s wrath after Kevin Durant bypassed the Knicks in free agency. The Knicks hired Fizdale because of his close friendship with Durant and Durant’s business manager. The team hoped Fizdale could convince KD to join the Knicks, which in turn would persuade other top-end free agents to join him (e.g., Kyrie Irving).
The Knicks became the laughing stock of the NBA when Durant and Irving snubbed the team for their crosstown rival, the Brooklyn Nets.
Mike Miller went 17-27 as interim head coach of the Knicks this season. Despite doing a bang-up job with an inexperienced roster, the Knicks were shopping for other head coaches.
In the previous weeks, the Knicks interviewed Jason Kidd and ex-Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. Kidd has a strong relationship with Giannis ‘Greek Freak’ Antetokounmpo. Dolan thought Kidd could leverage his friendship with the Greek Freak to bring him to New York City. Sound vaguely familiar?
With Thibodeau, players either love/hate the guy because he whips his team into the best shape of their lives. Under Thibs, practices are super intense. All-Star Jimmy Butler bought into the system and thrived under Thibs (in both Chicago and Minnesota).
Plenty of other players, particularly those millennial-aged veterans and Gen Z wunderkinds, might be a little too soft to fully embrace Thibs’ old-school style.
Thibs won the NBA Coach of the Year in 2011 when he guided the Chicago Bulls to a 62-20 record and a Central Division title. The Bulls lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat.
NY KNICKS HEAD COACHES (Since 2001)
Don Chaney (2001-04) 72-112
Herb Williams (2004) 1-0
Lenny Wilkens (2004-05) 40-41
Herb Williams (2005) 16-27
Larry Brown (2005-06) 23 -59
Isaiah Thomas (2006-08) 56-108
Mike D’Antoni (2008-12) 121-167
Mike Woodson (2012-14) 109-79
Derek Fisher (2014-16) 40-96
Kurt Rambis (2016) 9-19
Jeff Hornacek (2016-18) 60-104
David Fizdale (2018-19) 21-83
Mike Miller (2019-20) 17-27
Tom Thibodeau (2020-Present) 0-0
The Knicks haven’t made the postseason since Mike Woodson’s tenure in 2013. Under Woodson, the Knicks won their only playoff series in the 21st century. Since 2001, the Knicks advanced to the playoffs five times, but only advanced out of the opening round once.
Woodson found himself on the short-list of potential new hires, but Dolan and the Knicks went with Thibs instead.
Curse of the Knicks … Continues
Thibodeau becomes the Knicks’ 14th head coach since Jeff Van Gundy stepped down in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City. Van Gundy lost his best friend, who worked in the World Trade Center.
Since Van Gundy stepped down, the Knicks struggled. But hoops fans in New York City know that the real cancer has never been the coaching staff, front office, drafted players, or free agents. The sickness begins and ends with billionaire owner James Dolan.
“Sh-t rolls downhill,” is the best way to explain the losing culture of the Knicks.
I’ve quoted “The Wire” many times before when it comes to the Curse of the Knicks. And I will do it once again to emphasize that the core of the problem has always been the toxicity that trickles down from ownership and seeps into the rest of the franchise.
After two decades of excrement staining Madison Square Garden, the so-called most “famous arena in the world”, Dolan thinks he found a magical solution with Thibodeau.
Sure, Thibodeau is a good coach and defensive guru. Thibs will finally get the young Knicks to buy into a defensive scheme reminiscent of those rough and tumble 1990s-era Knicks.
However, every Knicks fan in New York City — from Spike Lee to Vinny the barber in the Bronx — knows that Thibs is being set up to fail. Until the Knicks can successfully remove Dolan, the team will continue to flounder in the lowest echelons of the NBA, which is sad because the city and long-term loyal fans deserve better.
Until Dolan sells the Knicks, MSG will continue to drown in fecal matter. Thibodeau becomes MSG’s newest plumber.
Welcome to the sh-t show, Thibs!