Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau looks on in the first...

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau looks on in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

SAN ANTONIO — Gregg Popovich has finished his term heading up Team USA and as he prepared to face Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks he had an idea of who might fit as a replacement.


"Oh sure, there are a lot of guys up here that would be fantastic and he’s one of them," Popovich said. "I think that experience is great and the people that they’re looking at, they’re all great candidates and I think everybody is going to be happy with the final selection for sure.

"He also was really helpful and supportive during my last four or five years with this, talking to him about how it all goes, giving advice. He’s been wonderful in that regard, too."

Thibodeau had worked with Team USA from 2013 to 2016 as an assistant coach. When the words were relayed to him he laughed at the notion of Popovich pushing for him to be in that high-pressure seat.

"That would be Pop," Thibodeau said. "I did it. I enjoyed my experience and I’m sure there are a number of great candidates that they have. So anyone that has an opportunity to do it, I would strongly suggest they do it. I’m sure Pop enjoyed it. I thought he did a great job, because it was probably the most challenging time for us in terms of getting guys to play, the short turnaround, all the things. The way they pulled through that was pretty remarkable."

Asked if he will throw his hat in the ring, Thibodeau said, "You don’t throw your hat in the ring. They have the ring."

Minor accolades

While the Knicks entered the night struggling, at least two-Way player, Luka Samanic, who has played for the Westchester Knicks, was named the NBA G League Player of the Week.

Samanic, who was waived by the Spurs in training camp after being a first-round pick in 2019 (19th overall), led the Knicks to a 2-1 record with averages of 30.0 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

"Well, they practice in the building, so I get the chance to watch a little bit," Thibodeau said. "He had a good week, obviously. He’s a good young prospect and he has to keep working."

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