Tom Thibodeau doesn't feel pressured by expectations of MSG chairman James Dolan
When Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan spoke Friday about his expectations for the Knicks — a spot in the playoffs this season — it seemed to put a goal, or a target, in place for Tom Thibodeau.
Thibodeau entered Saturday’s game against the Nets at Barclays Center having guided the Knicks to a 27-23 record, good enough for seventh place. It is a spot in the play-in tournament but not quite the playoffs. However, Thibodeau said he doesn’t feel any pressure from the expectations of the owner.
“It doesn’t change anything that I do or anything that our team does,” he said. “Every day, focus on what’s in front of us. Put everything you have into each and every day and the results will take care of themselves. You don’t worry about it.
“There’s never pressure. If you’re doing all you can each and every day, you never feel pressure.”
Asked if he agrees with the playoff expectation, Thibodeau said, “I agree that we have to work each and every day. I like where our team is. They’re putting forth the necessary work. If we keep doing the right things, good things will happen.”
Dolan said in the interview on WFAN that he leaves the basketball decisions to team president Leon Rose and Thibodeau, something he might not have done earlier in his tenure atop the franchise. But he said his days of meddling are over. Asked if is hard to do that, he said, “My deal with Leon and with Thibs is I get to speak. Their deal is they don’t have to listen to me.”
Thibodeau, who was with the Knicks as an assistant coach when Dolan took over as the owner of the franchise and saw some of the turbulent times coaches and executives went through, said his relationship with Dolan since joining the team in the summer of 2020 has been fine.
“He’s been great,” Thibodeau said. “He talks to us all the time. He’s provided. Every time we’ve asked for something we felt we needed, he’s provided it. And that’s all you can ask of an owner. So I love where we are as an organization. We’ve just got to keep plowing forward.
“I’m not going to share every private conversation but I think it’s good for us to have communication. For us, we have to have to lay out the plan and we want him to understand. And we want him to support what we’re doing, but we should be able to give him the reasons why we feel a certain way.”
In his first season, Thibodeau brought the Knicks to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and a playoff berth, but last season the team slipped to 37-45 and out of the postseason picture. With fingers being pointed in the organization, there were rumors that Thibodeau could be on the hot seat, rumors that surfaced again early this season. But Dolan expressed faith in the team’s leadership and Thibodeau has gotten as much out of this team as could be expected.
Still, Dolan putting expectations out publicly does set a bar.
“I think every owner does,” Thibodeau said. “That’s pro sports. He’s not saying anything any other owner wouldn’t say. You have to have a belief in your team. And we have belief.
“He owns the team. Whatever his expectations are, that’s what the expectations are. That doesn’t change how I feel. What I think. I believe in our team. I believe in work. And I believe if we’re doing the right thing, good things will happen.”