The New York Knicks plan to keep Tom Thibodeau as their head coach after this season, according to multiple reports.
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, Thibodeau will not be fired, and will return for at least the 2022-23 season, despite league-wide rumors that the second-year coach was on the hot seat in New York.
Thibodeau’s first season saw the young Knicks roster over-perform expectations — finishing with a 41-31 regular season record, and securing a playoff berth as the 4th seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
The team ultimately lost to the Atlanta Hawks in 5 games, winning just one postseason matchup, though fans and spectators hailed the coach for getting the most out of his team.
This season has been less rosey for Knicks fans, as the team sits at a 24-40 record, and will almost certainly miss the playoffs, as they are 5.5 games behind the Charlotte Hornets for the 10th seed in the East, with just 18 contests remaining.
That relative decline had many NBA-watchers speculating that team president Leon Rose may kick the 64-year-old coach to the curb in the offseason. According to Fischer’s report, Knicks owner James Dolan gave the front office permission to fire Thibodeau if they saw fit, but Rose is planning to decline that opportunity, and stick with him for at least the beginning of his third season at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s not like they inherited [Thibodeau]. This was Leon’s guy,” one NBA coaching figure reportedly told Fischer. “Leon would have to answer to that.”
At the time of his hiring, when he inked a five year deal worth $5 million per-year, Rose praised the defensive-minded Thibodeau for squeezing the best results out of his rosters.
“Tom Thibodeau is a proven winner who gets the most out of the players and teams that he has coached,” Rose said in 2020. “He will bring leadership, accountability, and a hard-working mentality to our organization.”
Thibodeau previously coached the Chicago Bulls for five seasons, before serving as the coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves for three years.
Some critics of Thibodeau lament the intense pressure the coach reportedly puts on players — yet, the Knicks young core of R.J. Barret, Immanuel Quickley and Mitchell Robinson continue to improve in the second-half of the season, which may be a significant reason the team is willing to look past this year’s lackluster position in the standings.
Atop the Knicks’ youth showing notable improvement, veteran forward Julius Randle has also improved his game following a slow start to the year — including when he scored a career-high 46 points last week.
The Knicks head into their next 4 games at Madison Square Garden, beginning with a Wednesday night matchup against the injured Portland Trailblazers, before playing host to the Washington Wizards on Friday.