The New York Knicks organization has done plenty of foolish things over the years. However, one of the most foolish was allowing a superstar coach such as Tom Thibodeau slip through their hands. Thibodeau was once an assistant on Jeff Van Gundy's staff, was sent packing, gained fame as the defensive coach on Doc Rivers' Boston Celtics staff and is now known as one of the best head coaches in the game as he patrols the sidelines for the Chicago Bulls. The problem is, Thibodeau isn't seeing eye-to-eye with everyone in the WIndy City. There's a chance Thibodeau could get out of his Bulls contract and, if so, replace Mike Woodson as the head coach of the New York Knicks.
In any normal circumstance a coach coming off a 54-win season would never have his job in jeopardy. However, the New York Knicks are many things but normal is not one of them. This season has been horrible. It's been disappointing. It's been hard to watch.
Right now the Knicks are giving off a "the ship is sinking" feeling. That's never a good thing for a head coach. The bottom line is it's easier to fire your coach than it is to replace your players. As a head coach, once you've lost your roster it's extremely hard to recover.
The Knicks have dealt with plenty of injuries this season. More than that, the team has looked uninterested, unprepared, disengaged and unapologetic for it's poor performances.
If it's not one thing it's another with Woodson this season. The isolation offense, the constant switching on defense, the poor game management (Why didn't he call a timeout at the end of the Washington Wizards game?), the rotations, the constantly changing starting lineup, etc.
The one positive going on is the season Carmelo Anthony is putting together. He's not scoring like he was last season when he won the scoring title but he's rebounding and playing a better all-around game. The problem is, the rest of the team has been terrible and Anthony could very well leave New York in the off-season after he opts out of his contract.
Even Woodson's biggest supporter, J.R. Smith, has defied him and shut him out. Health is probably a bigger reason for Smith's poor performance this season more so than coaching but it's clear he's no longer listening to Woodson's message.
Now, it would seem that Woodson will likely get this season to show he's the right man for the job and try to turn things around. After all, in the East this is still a playoff team. Plus the facts that he led the Knicks to one of their best seasons in the past 20 years last season, that he received a new contract and that most head coaches would want to take over in the off-season help Woodson's case for sticking this season out in New York.
The off-season, however, could be a different story. The same could be said for a former Knicks assistant, Tom Thibodeau. The current Chicago Bulls head coach could also be looking for a change this next off-season.
Thibodeau is viewed as one of the best coaches in the NBA. He's a tough-nosed, no-nonsense, defensive-minded, ask-a-lot-of-his-players type of coach. He's exactly what the Knicks need and the exact type of coach that could make championship dreams a reality.
Best of all, Howard Beck of Bleacher Report reports that Thibodeau would likely be allowed out of his contract if he were to request his release.
Already disenchanted with management, Thibodeau could use a rebuilding plan as a reason to ask out of his contract—a request the Bulls would likely grant.
Now, it wouldn't come cheap. In theory, the Bulls could simply let Thibodeau walk away. In reality, they'd make the Knicks pay out the nose for him. Believe it or not, billionaire James Dolan can afford it. In fact, it would be the best investment he's made in a long time.
Don’t forget he’s another CAA star client who already has some Knicks history after his stint as an assistant on Jeff Van Gundy’s staff. No one I’ve consulted, furthermore, thinks that trying to bring in the famously demanding Thibodeau would dissuade Melo from re-signing with the Knicks, who, remember, can still pay their star forward $30 million more than anyone else to stay in a city he adores.
Thibs has two seasons left on his Bulls deal after this one, true, but there is said to be enough lingering friction between the coach and GM Gar Forman to the point that you can picture it eventually sparking some sort of mutual parting. Throw in the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Derrick Rose's health, rising fears that Thibs’ beloved Luol Deng is a certainty to relocate in free agency next summer (if not sooner) and the occasional grumble in circulation about some of the Bulls’ players chafing at how hard Thibs pushes them in practice and there's clearly something there when coaching insiders tip you to keep your eye on Thibs to the Knicks.
Does a lot have to happen between now and the day the Knicks have a press conference to announce Thibodeau's hiring? Sure, but these are not big obstacles and fairly easily done. The two biggest factors would be Thibodeau's happiness and Dolan's stupidity.
Thibodeau has a contract. If he still thrives with the Bulls this season and things are smoothed over with the front office he could decide to ride it out in Chicago and hope Derrick Rose can become Derrick Rose again.
Dolan, on the other hand, has been known for one poor decision after another. To his credit, he's not afraid to spend money. The problem is, he has no idea how to use it in the sports world. It's all together possible Dolan could turn around and give Woodson a contract extension or hire Allan Houston, with no coaching experience, as Woodson's replacement.
That being said, in a perfect world Thibodeau would ask out of Chicago. Then Dolan would pay the Bulls some ridiculous cost to secure Thibodeau's release. Thibodeau would then receive a large contract to become the next head coach of the New York Knicks.
Doesn't that sound nice? Well it could very well happen. In fact, Dolan should be talking to CAA right now to facilitate Thibodeau's movement towards the Big Apple. If they can do that, the Knicks should also probably start looking into ways to free up some cash for next off-season when Thibodeau favorite Luol Deng is a free agent.
Perhaps the rumored Kyle Lowry trade proposal could help do that. No one wants to see the Knicks limited youth go anywhere. However, if that's the sacrifice that leads to the Knicks landing Thibodeau as their head coach — so be it.
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