New York Knicks: Who will be the next head coach?

The New York Knicks are reported to be interviewing numerous candidates for the head coach position, but the feeling is that there is only one contender.

Even though there is no basketball and the New York Knicks aren’t heading to Orlando to partake in the season restart, a lot happened with the team during June and other announcements seem imminent.

There were more front office additions, which include Alex Kline,  TJ Zanin (brother of Frank Zanin), and William Wesley (aka “World Wide Wes”). Both Kline and Zanin are additions to the scouting department, while World Wide Wes is the new Executive Vice President – Senior Basketball Advisor.

In addition to the front office hires, the Knicks decided to dabble in player transactions. First, the team waived Kadeem Allen to claim Jared Harper. Second, the Knicks waived Allonzo Trier to claim Theo Pinson.

Yes, my most recent post about Trier becoming the sixth man for the Knicks is not relevant anymore. Oh well! (*Crumbles paper and throws it in the trash* Kobe!)

Leon Rose and his staff continue to make changes to situate the Knicks to become a better franchise. Whether that is hiring more people to the front office, releasing and signing players for financial or trade implications, or scouting prospects on waivers and in the upcoming draft. Yet, there is one hire that Knicks fans are anticipating. And that’s the Head coach selection.

As of right now, there are 11 candidates for consideration, and the hire will most likely occur towards the end of July, according to Rose himself.

The head coach hire will be one of, if not, the most significant decision that Rose will make to set this team up for success. Rose mentioned he’s looking for the head coach to not only develop the roster but also to be around long enough to make them a “perennial contender.”

So here are the coaching candidates we are aware of:

  • Tom Thibodeau
  • Mike Miller
  • Kenny Atkinson
  • Mike Woodson
  • Jason Kidd
  • Mike Brown
  • Ima Udoka
  • Will hardy
  • Chris Fleming
  • Jamahl Mosely
  • Pat Delany

A lot of candidates, sure, but Knicks fans should prepare themselves for Thibodeau.

Multiple reports indicate that Thibodeau is the lead candidate (essentially it’s his job to lose). It also helps that he has close connections with Rose and World Wide Wes.

Some fans are making this seemingly inevitable decision as a terrible one, which is debatable.

Thibodeau has coached for 27 seasons (20 years as an assistant and seven years as a head coach). As a head coach, Thibodeau has a 352-246 win-loss record, which translates to a 58.9 win percentage. And his winning percentage has him ranked 12th all-time (must have a minimum of 500 games to be ranked).

As we all know, the pinnacle of Thibodeau’s head coaching career was his time with the Chicago Bulls.

As the head coach of the Bulls from 2010-15, Thibodeau had a 255-139 win-loss record and took the team to five consecutive playoff appearances (including two Cental Division titles). Unfortunately, he only made the conference finals once with the Bulls, but that happens when you don’t have a healthy Derrick Rose for three consecutive seasons and have to face LeBron James three out of the five playoff exits.

The real concern is Thibodeau’s time with the Timberwolves, which was complicated. He was in charge of rebuilding the team while acting as the head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Coaching and operations are both grueling full-time jobs and separate for a reason.

Thibodeau had to oversee the roster construction, the salary cap, and make player evaluations while people in different managing departments report to him. On top of that, he was overseeing a young roster, implementing his playing style, making sure that players were being developed, and preparing for an 82-game season. There are other responsibilities that we are unaware of, but this is just a gist of his role in Minnesota.

The burden of these simultaneous jobs could explain why he didn’t excel in either and made multiple poor decisions. For example, he overpaid Andrew Wiggins, traded Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton, and then traded Ricky Rubio for only a first-round draft pick (he should’ve been able to get more than that).

Let’s note that before he was fired, he was able to break the 13-year playoff drought. And right before he was let go, the Timberwolves were hovering around a .500 record halfway through the season. He may have even been able to help the team turn the season around, but we will never know.

Thankfully, if hired for the Knicks, Thibodeau would not oversee the front-office and would go back to focusing all of his attention on the hardwood.

Of course, there are still concerns with Thibodeau as a coach, including his dismissive approach to “load management,” shifting away from a substantial isolation offensive scheme, and playing his young athletes. Thibodeau recently mentioned how he has learned from his past mistakes, but that is rather questionable since we have not seen him coach since his firing.

While Thibodeau has been criticized for heavily relying on seasoned players, he actually has demonstrated that he utilizes young players. During his first season with the Bulls, he relied on Derrick Rose (third season, 36.8 minutes per game), Taj Gibson (second season, 21.8 minutes per game), and Joakim Noah (fourth season, 32.8 minutes per game). With the Timberwolves, he counted on Zach LaVine (third season, 37.2 minutes per game), Andrew Wiggins (third season, 37.2 minutes per game), and Karl-Anthony Towns (second season, 37 minutes per game).

The backlash that Thibadeau has received as a taboo coach is unbalanced. Sometimes coaches fail but learn from their mistakes. For example, Thibadeau’s former colleague, Doc Rivers had some shortfalls before becoming a championship coach and one of the top coaches in the league.

Even though Rivers had a solid start with the Orlando Magic by leading them to four consecutive playoff appearances when he had Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady, the Magic released him during his fifth season with the team after a 1-10 start.

Then, Doc brought the Boston Celtics to the playoffs to the playoffs with a 45-37 record in his first season after a year off of coaching.  He still hadn’t hit his stride. The Celtics would have losing records the following two seasons and miss the playoffs by going 33-49 (2005-06) and 24-58 (2006-07). It wasn’t until the 2007-08 season that Rivers would lead the Celtics to victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

So if anything, maybe we can look at Rivers’ complicated history and believe that this third chance for Thibadeau could be when he figures everything out. Rose and World Wide Wes are on his side and would only want him to succeed. And with the revamped front office, Rose and his new leadership should be able to help construct the roster to fit Thibadeau’s coaching style.