All of the Knicks' due diligence in a search for a head coach has amounted to this simple process - it is still Tom Thibodeau’s job to lose.
That has come from representatives of other coaches on the list of 11 confirmed candidates for the head coaching vacancy in New York as well as from some of the candidates themselves. And, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Thibodeau formally interviewed for the job Thursday.
The Knicks would not confirm the interview.
Thibodeau has been regarded as the leading candidate almost from the moment that Leon Rose stepped in as team president. Thibodeau checks every box for the long-struggling franchise: a resume replete with playoff berths as a head coach in Chicago and Minnesota and even a championship ring as an assistant coach in Boston, New York connections and a long history with Rose and the agency that Rose headed up,
“We want to find the right leader that can develop our young players as well as hold everyone accountable and take us from development to becoming a perennial winner,” Rose said recently in an interview on MSG Network. “We also want somebody that we think will be collaborative with the front office and someone that when you’re in that huddle and you’re looking in that coach’s eyes, every player that’s looking at him knows that that person is driving the ship and is going to get the job done.”
The Knicks have been conducting interviews already with the candidates who were headed into the bubble in Orlando for the restart of the season. The 22 teams that were participating traveled to Orlando over a staggered schedule beginning Tuesday with the final teams arriving Thursday.
Among the coaches with prior head coaching experience only one - Jason Kidd - is currently headed to Orlando. Kidd is an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. Thibodeau, Kenny Atkinson, Mike Woodson, Mike Brown and Knicks interim coach Mike Miller are all without a job or done for the season (Brown is an assistant with the Golden State Warriors).
The Knicks also reportedly were interviewing Bulls’ lead assistant Chris Fleming Thursday. Other than Fleming, all of the candidates without head coaching experience on the Knicks' list are headed into the bubble, including San Antonio’s Will Hardy, Philadelphia’s Ime Udoka, Orlando’s Pat Delaney and Dallas’ Jamahl Mosley.
There is an allure to many of the candidates as Rose has cast a wide net in his search. But Thibodeau, who served as an assistant coach to Jeff Van Gundy in New York and then worked for Doc Rivers in Boston where he won a title, has a reputation that seems to put him above the others.
Rose described the process in his interview with the team’s network, noting, “We’re setting it up in two phases. We’re having shorter meetings, kind of break the ice with the various candidates and then we’re going to have full interviews with the candidates. Mike [Miller] obviously is one of those candidates.
“We’re anticipating that to go mid- to late-July. Hopefully by the end of July, make a decision. Whether it’s to keep Mike or going in a different direction. It’s very exciting. There’s a lot of really great candidates. I’m not going to get into who the candidates are, but it’s exciting. We’re looking at a lot of different people with a lot of different mindsets, philosophies. For me, personally, this is educational. I need to make sure that we go through this process and we dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ in order to make the right decision.”