When the New York Knicks hired Tom Thibodeau in the summer of 2020, the hope was that he would bring much-needed stability back to the team and build a winning culture. Thibodeau, the former Timberwolves and Bulls coach, is a two-time Coach of the Year winner and has made the playoffs as a coach several times. While the defensive-minded coach brings much-needed energy to teams, his negative effects can be detrimental to players.
After New York’s dismal 2019-2020 season, the team shocked everyone in 2020-2021. Despite having expectations of being a 20 win team, they made the playoffs. New York was the fourth seed, at 41-31. While players such as Julius Randle had career-best seasons, Thibodeau’s accountability and culture were one of the main reasons for the success. The team entered 2021 with high hopes, but they have been massively disappointing so far. A good amount of the blame falls on Thibodeau. Below, I’ll discuss why and why not the team should keep or fire him, and make my decision on what I’d do if I was Leon Rose.
Why the Knicks should fire Thibodeau
Throughout his professional coaching career, Tom Thibodeau has had a trend of wearing out his players. When he coached the Chicago Bulls, he was a big factor in why Derrick Rose got hurt. Thibodeau played Rose for over 40 minutes a game consistently and ran his knees into the ground. A superstar at the time, he has not been the same since.
In addition to players suffering injuries, fatigue has gotten to them. As the head coach in New York, he has overplayed Julius Randle far too often. This has led to him showing signs of fatigue on the court. Though Randle needs to not be lazy, if he played less some nights, his season may be going in a different direction.
Coach Thibodeau’s stubbornness when refusing to make adjustments is also a huge issue. For example, his rotations have gotten worse than last year, and despite Randle’s poor play, Obi Toppin’s minutes have stayed constant. Over his last seven games, he has recorded an average of 13 minutes a game. Even though his game is far from polished, he gives the team an energy boost needed for at least 15 minutes a night. Additionally, he continues to play declining veteran Alec Burks at point guard, instead of rookie Miles McBride, who has been thriving in the G-League. He needs a chance to showcase his skills.
Conflicts with Leon Rose
As a head coach in any sport, one of your main responsibilities is to always be on the same page as the general manager and front office. While Thibodeau and Leon Rose were both reasons why the Knicks were solid last year, they have both been bad this season thus far.
Even though the Knicks pulled the trigger and acquired former Hawks forward Cam Reddish earlier in the season, Thibodeau was supposedly against the move. Additionally, even though Leon Rose was open to moving veterans at the deadline such as Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, Thibodeau was reluctant to move them. He thought they were vital pieces to the team.
These are only a few of the reasons Thibodeau’s dismissal should be thought about.
Why the Knicks should keep Tom Thibodeau
If you would have asked me after last season, Tom Thibodeau would be the tea’s coach of the future. This year has been a completely different story. While the negatives outweigh the positives this season, it hasn’t been all bad.
With Thibodeau at the helm, third-year player RJ Barrett has taken a leap into an even better player than he was last year. Though Barrett’s work ethic is excellent, coaching plays a big part in his development too. Thibodeau has prioritized his work ethic often, and it is paying off. This year has not gone how everyone had hoped. However, last year wouldn’t have happened without him. His energy and culture change was much needed for the team.
Final Verdict: Fire Thibodeau
While Tom Thibodeau was certainly a great coach a year ago, he is only declining, and the team needs someone who can develop young talent. Keeping him another year will set this team back in a big way, and the young players on the team will have delayed development.