GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It’s been John Calipari and Jay Wright and now Tom Thibodeau — the who’s who of big names linked to the Knicks coaching job — and then there’s Mike Miller.
The Knicks' interim coach has been adamant in the fact that none of this chatter bothers him. Forget that the Knicks have been markedly better since he took over for David Fizdale on Dec. 6, or that even Jeff Van Gundy has gone on record saying that Miller should be at least given the opportunity to fight for this job.
For Miller, though, these last 27 games aren’t about listening to swirling rumors, or worrying about the future, or even, really, auditioning for a role in this organization or another, he said.
Asked as much — if he’ll look at the stretch as a way to show what he can do as a head coach, Miller was definitive. “Not at all,” he said. “I think it’s — if we help these guys and we continue to grow and get better, we’ve done our job. All I’m concerned about is bringing value to it and helping these guys. As simple as it sounds, I did that for six years as a D-League/G-League coach and I felt good at the end of every season, and that’s the direction I took.”
Rumors about a coaching replacement started about as soon as Miller took control and were further bolstered when Steve Stoute — the Knicks' new brand consultant — told ESPN’s "First Take" that the organization was looking to put a new coach in place (the Knicks eventually walked back those comments and Stoute apologized). The latest wrinkle came this week, when the New York Post reported that sources close to Thibodeau — the former Bulls and Timberwolves coach — said he was very interested in pursuing the Knicks job.
Miller shrugged it off on Wednesday. He doesn’t have any social media, and won’t be getting it any time soon, so he doesn’t hear the rumors. He isn’t upset at the perception that he’s lost this coaching job before even having a chance to earn it, because he hasn’t heard about that, either.
“I’m not really paying attention to it so I don’t really know until you tell me that [people are] dismissing” him as a coaching possibility, Miller said. “It’s really not my concern. I spent six years in the D-League/G-League and it was day to day. How do you make the players better? And I really feel like that experience gave me a different perspective on how to do these jobs and how to do a job that brings value to this organization.”
It’s one thing, though, to say those words, and another thing to believe them — especially when your livelihood is at stake, but Julius Randle backed up his coach. Miller just really is like this, he said.
“Just know him and his personality, he really doesn’t pay attention to it,” Randle said. “He’s focused on us every day, preparing us the best way he can . . . He’s never too high, never too low. If we have a loss, after the game, he’s not super emotional. We’ll come in the next day and talk about it. He allows us to process things. He’s been great with that, he’s been great with making sure we connect with each other.”
“He’s been absolutely amazing.”