Tom Thibodeau spoke in his introductory news conference about how the Knicks were his dream job, but his predecessors in the role of head coach over the last 20 years could warn him that it can quickly turn into a nightmare.
With a roster bereft of stars and a cast of veterans who could be on the way out, Thibodeau’s success this season may rest on his ability to get more out of the young players on the team. It didn’t work out for David Fizdale or Mike Miller, but Thibodeau has been watching film and could begin to work with the likes of RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina next week.
As long as plans go through between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association, Thibodeau should be able to begin conducting individual workouts with players next week with an expected three weeks of voluntary team workouts to follow. The drawback could be getting players to the Knicks facility in Westchester County and skirting quarantine rules. Knox is in town already, but none of the other young players are yet - including Ntilikina who is in France.
“The NBA is currently in communication with the NBPA about what the non-bubble teams will be able to do with our players,” Knicks general manager Scott Perry said. “Our front office has been actively involved along with the seven other organizations through this entire process. Our hope is that in August, coach Thibodeau will be able to get right to work and oversee organized team activities in our home market.”
“I want to get around the players to work with them and get to know them better,” Thibodeau said. “Based on film, I really think RJ has a very bright future as does Mitchell Robinson. Those are two who stand out. But we have a lot of young talent. I don’t like to make qualifications on people until I get around them. . . . With Frank and Kevin, they’re both young guys that have talent. That being said, I’m not making any real observations until I get to be around them. Like most young players, there are growing pains you go through and there are steps players have to take. Sometimes we measure guys against guys are already established and you forget the steps those guys have to take to get to where they are. It’s an important part of it. Understand how you get there is work, sacrifice and commitment. One’s determination and perseverance is critical for their development.”
The Knicks have not named assistants yet, but Perry said, “We’re currently in the process of building out Tom’s staff and he will have the autonomy in who he hires. Based on the conversations that we’ve had, this staff will be diverse and very strong in all areas, especially in player development.”
Among the names expected to be in the mix are Rick Brunson and Daisuke Yoshimoto, who were on Thibodeau’s staff in Minnesota, former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson and Mike Miller, who served as interim head coach this season.