Tag Archives: knicks coach

If the Knicks are willing to be bold, Tom Thibodeau is the best move

Bulls Cavaliers Basketball

Is Tom Thibodeau to the Knicks a legitimate possibility?

The Bulls fired Tom Thibodeau today after years of tension between the star coach and the team’s ownership group. As I wrote last year, “Thibs” considers the Knicks’ head coaching position a “dream job.” The Connecticut native served for seven years as an assistant coach with the Knicks from 1996 to 2003, and has a terrific track record as a phenomenal defensive coach. As a head coach, Thibodeau won the Coach of the Year award in 2011, and in 2012 became the fastest coach ever to reach 100 wins. Thibs had a .647 winning percentage in Chicago, but never seemed to get along with his bosses.

The Knicks finished at 17-65 last season after bringing Phil Jackson aboard as president and, under Phil’s direction, hiring Derek Fisher as head coach. Fisher signed a 5-year, $25 million deal and has 4 seasons remaining on the contract.

Thibodeau would reportedly welcome the opportunity to coach the Knicks, and any sensible NBA team would love the opportunity to hire him. Carmelo Anthony has said he is a big admirer of Thibodeau. Thibs’ track record speaks for itself. The Knicks need to make major changes after last season’s debacle. Fisher wasn’t particularly impressive. It sounds like a perfect fit— Thibodeau to the Knicks.

But there are major obstacles. The Knicks’ job currently isn’t open. Firing Derek Fisher appears unlikely for a few reasons. For one, the Knicks are on the hook for $20 million, which is a lot of money to pay a guy you don’t employ. Firing Fisher and hiring Thibodeau (who won’t come cheap) would be a costly move. Second of all, Fisher was Phil’s first hire. He played for Phil, he mastered Phil’s Triangle system, he won five championships with Phil. Phil hired him so that he could mentor him and coach the Knicks without actually having to BE the coach of the Knicks. Fisher is Phil’s “guy.” It’s a bad look to fire that “guy” after one season, especially when the team the coach was given rarely looked like it had a fighting chance.

But that doesn’t make the move impossible. James Dolan has shown a willingness to spend in the past. The salary cap prevents the Knicks from having a huge edge in terms of talent, but teams can spend as much as they want on their staff. In addition, Fisher isn’t necessarily Phil’s “guy.” Fisher wasn’t his first choice. Phil wanted to hire Steve Kerr and thought they had a deal, possibly because Dolan didn’t like Kerr’s salary demands (if that is the case, that throws some serious doubt on whether he’d be willing to pay two coaches at once), or maybe because Kerr realized how much better the job in Golden State was.

The biggest obstacles? The egos of Thibodeau, Phil and Dolan. Thibodeau is an independent coach, he won’t throw out his principles to run Phil’s system. Phil won’t be eager to admit that his first coaching move, like nearly all of his early moves, might have been a mistake, and he won’t be willing to give up his dreams of riding the Triangle to a 14th ring in New York. Dolan won’t want a coach who isn’t a company man— and while Thibodeau put up with Dolan as an assistant over ten years ago, he’s clearly more stubborn as a head coach, which is why he’s now on the market to begin with. And to those saying Thibodeau would be a good fit as a defensive-minded assistant coach, it’s extremely unlikely that one of the league’s top coaches would accept an assistant job. And even if Thibs did, he would still command a Head Coach-level salary. If anything, the Knicks might be better off seeing if Fisher would accept a demotion, taking the role of an offensive-minded, Triangle-preaching assistant under Thibodeau.

By hiring Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks could bring in an established coach, a big name, a defensive savior, and a guy who could help them lure the top-notch players they’ll need to sign in free agency (if they aren’t scared off by Thibodeau’s tendency to put heavy workloads on his best players). It would make the Knicks a better team. If winning is the first priority— if Phil and Dolan want to win at all costs (literally and figuratively), Thibodeau is the right hire. He’s the best hire. He’s likely a guy who wants to be hired. But unless the Knicks deviate from the status quo (which happens to be exactly what needs to start occurring for this team to win a championship), Thibodeau likely won’t be coaching in New York any time soon.

-Tommy Rothman

Knicks Hire Kurt Rambis as Assistant Coach

Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Rambis sits with coach Jackson during their NBA game against the Boston Celtics in Los AngelesThe Knicks have hired Kurt Rambis to be an assistant coach on Derek Fisher’s staff, according to reports. Rambis won four championships with the Lakers as a player in the 1980s and won 2 more as an assistant coach under current Knicks President Phil Jackson. Rambis had an unsuccessful tenure as the head coach of the Timberwolves before returning to the Lakers as an assistant last season. Kurt was reportedly in contention for the Lakers’ vacant head coaching job, but it appears that Phil Jackson has lured him across the country to Madison Square Garden. Rambis is deeply familiar with Jackson’s Triangle Offense, which is likely a large reason for his hiring.

Reports on Wednesday suggested that the offer Rambis had received from the Knicks was one of the largest ever given to an assistant coach. ESPN’s Ian Begley reported a few minutes ago that Rambis had accepted the offer.

-Tommy Rothman

BREAKING: Knicks, Fisher Have Deal


Derek Fisher has agreed to replace Mike Woodson as the next head coach of the Knicks, according to multiple sources. The two sides are currently finalizing a 5 year, $25 Million deal which is expected to be completed shortly. Kurt Rambis is likely to be on the staff as an assistant coach; Fisher and Phil Jackson will begin assembling a staff once the deal is complete.


Knicks chasing hard after Fisher, want to hire him this week


The Knicks have intensified their pursuit of 39 year-old Derek Fisher and are looking to hire him as their head coach this week. Fisher won 5 championships under Knicks President Phil Jackson during his playing career, the end of which he is expected to announce shortly. ESPN’s Marc Stein was the first to report the news on Fisher. Fisher is the all-time record holder in playoff games played and is considered a strong leader both on and off the court. Fisher served as the president of the NBA Players Association from 2006 to 2013. 

Jackson has reportedly only shown interest in inexperienced coaches with whom he has a prior relationship, including Steve Kerr, who Jackson thought he had landed before the Golden State job opened up and Kerr took a deal with the Warriors. Fisher fits what Jackson is looking for: Smart, responsible, young (for a coach), a Jackson pupil, and somebody well-acquainted with Jackson’s “Triangle Offense”. Jackson reportedly plans on being very involved in the coaching of this year’s team even though he will not be taking the job for himself, so whichever coach Phil hires will certainly be running things the way the 13-time NBA champion wants them to be run. 

I think Fisher would be a solid hire, and since he will be guided by arguably the greatest coach in the game’s history if he takes the job, the Knicks should have some newfound structure on the court this coming season. Everybody thought the Kerr deal was wrapped up, so there’s obviously no guarantee that Jackson will be able to reel Fisher in. But with New York’s main competition, the LA Lakers, reportedly dropping their pursuit of Fisher, expect the longtime point guard to be announced as the Knicks’ coach before too long.

-Tommy Rothman

Report: Tom Thibodeau Would Only Leave Bulls For “Dream Job” With Knicks


Tom Thibodeau, considered one of the game’s top coaches, would consider leaving the Chicago Bulls, but only to return to the Knicks, sources told Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher (formerly of ESPN). Thibodeau, who won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award in 2011, worked for the Knicks as an assistant coach back in 1999, when they made it to the NBA Finals. According to Bucher,

“There’s only one place that Thibodeau would really push to go elsewhere, and that’s to go back to the New York Knicks,” Bucher said. “That, I’m told by one source, is actually his dream job, to go back and get the Knicks back on the map. But short of that, he realizes that no matter where he goes, the grass isn’t always greener.”

Thibodeau is under contract with the Bulls, but there has reportedly been friction between the coach and the front office during his time in Chicago. Thibodeau was upset when the team fired his best assistant coach last season, and when they traded All-Star Luol Deng for cap space and salary relief this winter.

While the Knicks were a bit stingy (at least compared to the Warriors) in their failed pursuit of Steve Kerr, teams are not limited by the salary cap for coaching hires and James Dolan and Phil Jackson could probably make Tom Thibodeau an offer he couldn’t refuse.

However, Thibodeau is still a long shot to coach the Knicks for a couple reasons. First of all, the Knicks would almost certainly have to provide Chicago with compensation to get them to let the highly sought-after coach out of his contract, and the Knicks don’t have much to give in the way of trade assets. Second of all, Phil Jackson seems to be focused on hiring a coach with little or no experience, with whom he has a previous relationship, in an effort to indirectly coach the team from afar and find a pupil to try to convert into the “Next Phil Jackson”. Thibodeau has no relationship with Phil and is already a very established coach who is probably set in his own ways. 

The reports of Thibodeau considering the Knicks to be his “dream job” can only be seen as good news, but for the time being, don’t count on him bringing his clipboard to the Big Apple.

-Tommy Rothman


New York Knicks Coaching Search: Breaking Down the Main Candidates


By Tommy Rothman

As you may have heard, the Knicks need a coach. Phil Jackson’s top target, Steve Kerr, recently took a job with the Warriors, leaving the Zen Master hanging. So who will the Knicks turn to next? Here is a breakdown of the candidates who have been linked to the Knicks in some way over the past few months, as well as some other guys who could conceivably enter the picture.

The Big Names

Jeff Van Gundy


WHY: Had success coaching the Knicks in the 90s, well-respected in the league, would be a very popular hire.

WHY NOT: Has never worked with Phil, no reports indicate that Jackson is considering bringing him aboard.

Mark Jackson


WHY: Former Knicks star would be welcomed at MSG, did a solid job coaching the Warriors, still young enough to adjust to Phil. Has reportedly been added to Phil’s list as a candidate. Melo reportedly would like to play for him.

WHY NOT: Has never worked with Phil, doesn’t run the Triangle (yet), has a job with ESPN, reportedly clashed with management in Golden State.


George Karl


WHY: Was the Coach of the Year in 2013 before being fired by Denver, has won over 1,000 games.

WHY NOT: Has blasted the Knicks publicly in recent years, his arrival would almost certainly send Carmelo Anthony elsewhere.


Tom Thibodeau


WHY: Considered one of the game’s elite coaches, would transform the Knicks defensively, bring an instant culture change.

WHY NOT: Under contract with Chicago; the Knicks would likely have to provide draft pick or player compensation to the Bulls.


Lionel Hollins


WHY: Led Memphis to the Western Conference Finals in 2013.

WHY NOT: Seems to have a weak reputation in coaching circles despite his success.

Doc Rivers:


WHY: One of the best leaders in the league, a creative mind with the clipboard . Could leave LA in wake of Sterling scandal.

WHY NOT: With Sterling likely on the way out, he’s probably not going anywhere.


Phil Jackson


WHY: The most decorated coach in NBA history, instantly brings legitimacy to the team. The job is his if he wants it.

WHY NOT: Has repeatedly said that he is done coaching, in part because of his health.

Jerry Sloan


WHY: Legendary coach who manned the helm for the Jazz for 22 years. Has been linked to the Knicks on occasion.

WHY NOT: Might not be interested in coaching again, and probably wouldn’t make any adjustments for Phil.

John Calipari


WHY: One of the most successful coaches in the NCAA.

WHY NOT: Seems unlikely to ditch his comfortable position in Kentucky for the NBA.


The Triangle Guys

Brian Shaw


WHY: Deep knowledge of the Triangle, did a solid job in Denver, might be interested in working for his old coach.

WHY NOT: Under contract in Denver (although they might let him out), not the flashiest name.


Derek Fisher


WHY: Has led championship teams on the court running the triangle and has more formal leadership experience as the former head of the NBAPA. One of Jackson’s best Triangle pupils, will retire at the end of the season.

WHY NOT: Has no actual coaching experience. Lakers might steal him away.


Scottie Pippen


WHY: Won 6 championships running the Triangle on Jackson’s Bulls, Knicks have reportedly shown interest.

WHY NOT: Has no coaching experience and isn’t considered a major candidate. Could still come aboard as an assistant.


Kurt Rambis


WHY: Has a close relationship with Jackson and solid knowledge of the Triangle.

WHY NOT: Poor coaching record up to this point would make him an ugly hire. More suited for an assistant position.


Mike Dunleavy Sr.


WHY: Veteran NBA coach who has reportedly interviewed for the job. Has used elements of the Triangle despite never playing for Phil.

WHY NOT: Again, has never played for Phil. Ran into legal trouble a few years back. Lakers could pursue him.


Luke Walton:


WHY: Knows the triangle, his name was reportedly thrown around by Knicks executives.

WHY NOT: Hiring him would be a PR disaster, not a strong candidate.


Tyronn Lue


WHY: Knows the triangle well, probably a better candidate than Walton.

WHY NOT: Still doesn’t have much going for him, hiring him would be a surprise.


Metta World Peace


WHY: Knows the Triangle.

WHY NOT: Is only in this article to help me make the point that knowing the Triangle does not necessarily make a good coach.


The Wild Card

Patrick Ewing


WHY: Knicks legend, would be welcomed at the Garden, should have been given a chance years ago.

WHY NOT: Has a job as an assistant in Charlotte, so the Knicks might have blown their chance. Has never played for Phil. Would be better suited as an assistant than an assistant coach in NY.


In all likelihood, one of these men will be the next coach of the New York Knicks. My money at this point is on Fisher, although I am hoping for JVG or Mark Jackson.

And oh yeah, here’s a meme:


-Tommy Rothman