Let’s get right to it. Tom Thibodeau needs to be 2020-2021 Coach of the Year.
When you think of Coach of the Year in the NBA, you probably think of the coach for one of the top teams in the league. Quin Snyder, Tyronn Lue, Doc Rivers, Monty Williams, Steve Nash, names like that.
However, sometimes you’ll have a coach whose team doesn’t have a pretty win-loss record, but the impact he’s had on the team is insurmountable. That’s what Tom Thibodeau has done for the New York Knicks.
As of writing this article, the Knicks sit with a record of 15-16, placing them 7th in the Eastern Conference. The East is unusually tight this season, as the Knicks are only five games back of first place Philadelphia.
I wrote a piece earlier this month about how the Knicks have been playing really good basketball this season despite their unappealing win-loss record. That still remains true, and it’s all thanks to Thibodeau.
It All Starts With Defense.
Thibodeau, in his first year with the Knicks, quietly turned one of the NBA’s worst teams into a competitive squad that hangs in every game.
The Knicks are not a good offensive team, sitting dead last in the league. However, Thibodeau, Mike Woodson and company have the Knicks playing the best defense in the NBA.
They’re doing all of this with, for the most part, the same roster as last year. Rookies Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley have made impacts, plus newcomers such as Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, and Austin Rivers. But for the most part, it’s been the same faces making much bigger impacts this year.
Thibodeau came in with an attitude the team hadn’t had in the locker room in a while, and it’s exactly what they needed. The Knicks actually have an identity other than being straight up terrible for once. They play defense, and will be in your face the entire game.
They’re a young team with upside and have the perfect amount of veterans mixed into the rotation.
Speaking of veterans…
Thibs Brought In A Few Friends
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Coach Thibodeau built really strong relationships with his players when he was head coach of the Chicago Bulls earlier in the decade. Some players followed him when he went on to coach in Minnesota, and the same has happened here in New York.
When Thibodeau took the Knicks coaching job, he brought in Taj Gibson, a familiar face for Thibodeau. And believe it or not, Thibodeau wasn’t done yet. A few weeks ago, the Knicks completed a trade with the Pistons for Derrick Rose.
Rose won MVP on Thibodeau’s Bulls back in the day, and revived his career with Thibodeau in Minnesota.
A lot of Knicks fans weren’t thrilled about the Rose trade, and they had every right to be. Rose’s last stint with New York went terribly, and at first-glance it looked like he could wind up stealing minutes from Quickley.
However, this is a completely different Knicks organization than Rose was previously a part of. The Knicks were a disaster last time, and had a lot of past-their-prime talents that did not mesh together.
This time’s different.
You have a team full of youth looking to develop their game. You have a much more complete and competitive Knicks squad. And of course, Thibodeau.
Rose said his reasoning for asking to be traded to New York was because he wanted to go somewhere where he can make the playoffs. No one’s first thought was the Knicks, but considering where they sit in the East and his relationship with Thibodeau, just made too much sense.
Rose also said from the jump that his role on this team is to help the young guys develop, and do whatever else he can to help Thibodeau and New York win games. For the Knicks fans that hated the trade, this should make them feel better.
Thibodeau knows what he’s doing, and he’s everything the Knicks team, and fan base, needed.
It’s Official… The Knicks Are Good
This statement can go a million different ways. But really think about it for a second.
The Knicks play the best defense in basketball, have plenty of guys who can score, have a should-be All-Star in Julius Randle, and a stable coaching staff leading them.
That collection is something the Knicks haven’t had in a decade.
Thibodeau keeps the good players in, and doesn’t let the lower rotation guys steal minutes. If you’re good, you’ll play. He’s said that from the minute he joined the team.
Everyone has earned their role on this team.
This Knicks team just feels different. What Thibodeau and his coaching staff have turned this team into so early on in the season is remarkable. In fact, it’s almost unbelievable.
Like I said, the top contenders for the Coach of the Year award are listed above, but Thibodeau’s name needs to be right up there in that discussion.
This season went from what us fans thought would be another lottery year, to a team with great chemistry fighting for a playoff berth. The Knicks have a path, an identity, and for the first time in years, a structure to build a future on.
There’s coaching a great team well, and then there’s turning a lost organization into a respectable, competitive unit.
That’s what Tom Thibodeau has done to the Knicks, and that’s why he deserves to be Coach of the Year.