The short answer should be yes, but it’s tough. Obviously, this is a New York Knicks site, and I, the writer, am I devout Knicks fan.
But the writing is on the wall for why Tom Thibodeau should be a serious consideration for Coach of the Year after this season.
Knicks fans have been debating and discussing this all season, so it comes as no surprise that the “culture” we’ve been looking for the last eight years has finally docked itself in New York’s harbors.
Myself, and many others, were skeptical of Thibodeau being considered for the Knicks’ new coach, especially after a disastrous season and a third with David Fizdale — who, by the way, looks like an utter fool after the way this team has turned out.
With Marcus Morris, who had been shooting over 40% from 3PT last season, Julius Randle, in his rugged form, and practically the same veteran forces, Fizdale only mustered a 4-18 record last season.
If I keep talking about this, I honestly might puke, so I’ll cut to the chase a bit.
Enter today, where the Knicks stayed put for the most part in terms of trades, signings, and the like, and we see a 34-28 team, sans Morris, sitting at the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Flawed but favorable
But the Knicks didn’t get here that easy.
Thibodeau, no doubt, is still flawed as a coach. He doesn’t always make the best rotation decisions, he insists on starting the worst point guard in the NBA by several metrics, and he tends to freeze out younger players when they’re playing poorly, thus favoring veterans like Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson.
But at the end of the day, that game plan has often worked.
Rose has dug the Knicks out of a hole pretty frequently since being traded to New York — for Dennis Smith Jr. and a second rounder, might I add. Gibson, too, has given quality minutes every time his number is called, and he’s been doing that since last season.
But that doesn’t excuse his weaknesses.
Thibodeau hasn’t drawn up a smart, late-game play all season, is hesitant to challenge the referees outrageous calls at times — though he does scream at them quite frequently — and did I mention he continues to start Elfrid Payton?
Nonetheless, the record speaks for itself, and no single Knicks fan can deny the impact he’s had on turning this team from a bottom feeder to a near top of the conference powerhouse.
Can he get the award?
For the first time in eight years, the Knicks look like they’re making the postseason. The NBA awards are often given and driven by narratives.
Russell Westbrook, for example, won the award the year he averaged an insane triple double for the season, despite being on the 4th seed team behind James Harden’s 1st seed Rockets, who had 17 more wins than the Thunder.
That may not be the case with the Coach of the Year award, but anything is possible.
Thibodeau’s history with Chicago, and of course his previous roles within the organization where he made the Finals and won titles will always exist, but his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves was a stain on his record.
It appears Thibodeau might never have been the true issue in Minnesota, so if ever there was a place to turn his career around, I’m happy it’s with New York.
That said, the continued story of Thibodeau now that he has revived a once decrepit Knicks franchise could feed into the media panel voting him into the award.
Quin Snyder is favorited to win the award, and Monty Williams is not far behind. I mean, why wouldn’t they be the consensus favorites when they own the two best records in the league? But again, Thibodeau turning the Knicks into a playoff contender without a full offseason with them has to be worth something, right?
According to all the betting odds I’ve seen, Thibodeau is next in line if Snyder and Williams somehow fall out of the race, it’s just not likely.
"I'm not happy unless I'm miserable," Tom Thibodeau says after a 30-point Knicks win over the Celtics on his 63rd birthday. (but he's smiling) pic.twitter.com/S4SQpicGwG
— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) January 17, 2021
Can you really deny this guy the accolade with that smile? Sadly, I’d imagine it doesn’t help him become a favorite, so we will almost certainly see Snyder get the honor.
Even if Thibodeau isn’t the winner of the award, though, Knicks fans will always cherish what they’ve got. The Knicks remain in the top ranks of the league defensively, and have hit a stride offensively. Add to that the eight win streak they’re currently on, and we’ve got a recipe for a good end to the season.
Many thanks, Coach T.