The NBA’s worst-kept secret doesn’t have to be a secret anymore. To the surprise of literally no one, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (welcome back, Woj!) reported Saturday the New York Knicks have hired Tom Thibodeau to be their next head coach. Thibodeau, who previously worked as a Knicks assistant under Jeff Van Gundy from 1996-2004, was long thought of as the favorite to succeed David Fizdale as New York’s bench boss. Other candidates for the jobs included Kenny Atkinson, who was let go from his post as Brooklyn’s coach earlier this year, interim head coach Mike Miller and current Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, who spent the final year of his Hall of Fame career as a Knicks backup. Thibodeau’s reported deal is for five years.
After two decades spent biding his time as an assistant for Minnesota, San Antonio, Philadelphia, New York, Houston and Boston (where he won a title as Doc Rivers’ right-hand man in 2008), Thibodeau finally earned his shot at the head-coaching chair in 2010, steering the Chicago Bulls’ ship for five seasons. Tibs compiled an elite 255-139 record during that span (.647 winning percentage), earning Coach of the Year honors in 2011 while representing the Eastern Conference as head coach at the following year’s All-Star festivities in Orlando. Praised for his development of stars Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, Thibodeau parlayed his Bulls success into an assistant coaching gig with the U.S. national team, earning gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Thibodeau’s recent stint with the Timberwolves wasn’t as fruitful, lasting just two-and-a-half seasons in ‘Sota before his ouster in 2019. Strict attention to detail, relying heavily on his starting five and a strong defensive emphasis are among the 62-year-old’s NBA calling cards.
The New Britain, Connecticut native will have his work cut out for him in the Big Apple, where the Knicks find themselves in the midst of what could be a lengthy rebuild. New York had hoped to make a splash in last year’s free agency, but struck out across the board, failing to woo their primary targets Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who both landed with cross-town rival Brooklyn. The 21-45 Knicks were one of only eight teams not to qualify for the NBA’s Orlando restart later this month.