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Breaking down Knicks’ likely hiring of Tom Thibodeau as next head coach

Tom Thibodeau. (Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)

The New York Knicks have found their 13th-different head coach to lead the team since 2002, reportedly approaching a deal with veteran bench boss Tom Thibodeau on a five-year deal.

The potential hiring provides a return to Madison Square Garden for the 62-year-old — who spent seven years with the organization from 1996-2003 as an assistant — while helping round out a year of major changes within the organization’s leadership ranks.

New team president and executive vice president Leon Rose and William Wesley led the charge on finding the Knicks a head coach that will hopefully (for them) drag the franchise out of the NBA’s cellar — a spot they’ve been in for the better part of the last two decades.

Thibodeau has a reputation for successfully developing young players, most notably during his five-year stint as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. He helped Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Joakim Noah reach star status while helping lead the Bulls to the playoffs in each of those five seasons.

Considering the Knicks’ greatest hope of reversing its misfortune is their litany of youngsters ranging from RJ Barret to Kevin Knox, to Frank Ntilikina, to Mitchell Robinson, Thibodeau’s track record likely played a sizable part in Rose and Wesley’s decision.

But Thibodeau is also one of the more successful coaches in the game during his time with the Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves, ranking 11th in win-percentage (352-246, .589 W%) all-time amongst coaches with at least 500 games of experience.

Other candidates reportedly in contention for the Knicks job included former Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, Dallas Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley, and San Antonio Spurs assistant Will Hardy.

There are some knocks and detractors against Thibodeau and his style of coaching, however.

He’s been accused in the past of being too hard on his players, especially his younger ones, and has fractured relationships with front-office members given the stubbornness to stick to his system.

Former All-Star David West, who spent 15 years in the league, went on Twitter and advised young players to “run for the hills.”

“I feel for the young players who’s development will stagnate but they will be blamed for not working hard,” West said.

That kind of rigidity in a head coach, however, is something the Knicks have sorely missed throughout the last 20 years — a byproduct of incompetence that trickles down from the very top of the organization’s leadership ranks.

A coach that runs a tight ship and could find a way to get the most out of his young players will only provide promise for a franchise that has lacked any lately.

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