Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
If you follow the NBA, you know that one of the criticisms of Tom Thibodeau is something like this: his intensity and his approach to practices/playing time wear players out.
Whether that's true or not depends on who you talk to and what their perspective is on the matter.
Thibodeau, a strong candidate for the Knicks' head coaching job if interim head coach Mike Miller isn't retained, addressed those criticisms in an interview on ESPN's First Take earlier this week.
Here's what he said:
"I think we all have questions to answer as coaches. The big thing is oftentimes there's things that are being said where there's no validity to them, they're being painted by people that have never even been around you," Thibodeau said when asked by Max Kellerman about the criticism that his players are fatigued in the playoffs. "And then I would say to all those people, the facts are what the facts are. To look into the facts, to do your research, to look into the numbers and to also talk to former players, the guys who have played for me. I think if you did that, you would find what the truth is. There are certain things that I do believe in. But as we all know, our league is always changing. It never stays the same and it never has, nor will it ever. So you have to keep adapting as time goes on.
"But I think the same things do win, from building your team with a fundamental base to what it will take to be successful in the playoffs. The thing that I'm most proud of: in Chicago we had the best record in the league two years in a row, we had Derrick Rose, who was the youngest MVP of the league. That team had a great chance to win a championship. And unfortunately Derrick got hurt. But if Derrick didn't get hurt, I felt we would have been champions. The thing I was most proud of: when he did get hurt the team fought and continued to win and found a way to get in the playoffs.
"And then of course going to Minnesota, when you go into a franchise like that, where they had not been in the playoffs for 13 straight years, to get to the playoffs, to have 47 wins, to have the second-best record in the West (against in-conference competition in 2017-18), I was very proud of them as well. We had Karl-Anthony Towns, who became an All-Star, All-NBA player; we had Jimmy Butler, who was also an All-Star, All-NBA player; Andrew Wiggins had a terrific year and Zach LaVine. So we got a lot accomplished there. And I thought the fact that we became a dominant home team -- if you look at the record at home and getting to the playoffs, that was a great accomplishment. And I felt we were on our way there and unfortunately it didn't work out. I look at the things I've been a part of and I'm proud of that."
Thibodeau has spent time meeting with different teams since he was fired as Minnesota team president and head coach midway through the 2018-19 season. Those visits were a factor in one way Thibodeau has adapted his thinking about coaching.
"My experience this past year in going around and visiting a number of different teams and seeing it -- and it's been evolving this way for probably the last three or four years -- there's different ways to manage practice," Thibodeau said when asked about the ways in which his approach has evolved. "There's load management, there's sports scientists, there's situations in which your young guys are practicing a little bit more and your older vets are doing less and you're separating the two, and you're bringing them in toward the end of practice to do whatever needs to be done to prepare for that next game. So I think utilizing all the resources that you now have, understanding how to use them, how to manage that, has become critical. I think player care, player wellness, those things are prioritized. I think the big thing is, what does it take to be successful in the playoffs? And if we look at that, you start the season with those things in mind and prepare for the entire season."
Last month, agents and other coaches with a vested interest in the Knicks' coaching search said they believed Thibodeau is the most likely hire if Leon Rose decides not to retain Miller. Rose and Thibodeau have a close relationship.
Rose, of course, developed relationships with many coaches during his time as a top player agent at CAA. To name a few: Jeff Van Gundy, John Calipari and Mike Woodson.
So Thibodeau probably won't be the only coach Rose & Co. interview.
Rose and the Knicks haven't started the interview process yet. That will likely be on hold until the NBA regular season concludes or is canceled.
The Knicks reportedly may have competition for Thibodeau. The New York Post reported that Houston and Brooklyn also have interest in him.
People with knowledge of Thibodeau's past thinking believe that he'd put the Knicks at the top of his list if multiple teams pursue him.
Thibodeau, according to sources, was open to coaching the Knicks in the 2016 offseason without the title of team president. Then-Knicks president Phil Jackson didn't contact Thibodeau, a former Knicks assistant. Thibodeau eventually took a job as team president and head coach with Minnesota.
During the First Take interview this week, Thibodeau essentially declined to comment on the reports stating other teams are interested in hiring him.
"They're just rumors an that's what it is. And this time of year, everything is on hold," he said. "Normally you would have some openings and right now there aren't any openings. So you don't want to speculate on what jobs could open. That's what you have an agent for. He'll certainly, at some point, look at if there is an opportunity, whether it be a good match or not. I'm still under contract with Minnesota so I feel like I'm in a position where I can be patient."