Knicks Newcomer Sounds Off on ‘Least Favorite NBA Coach’ Tom Thibodeau

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau

Getty Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks reacts during the second half against the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden.

New York Knicks‘ top free-agent acquisition Donte DiVincenzo defended Tom Thibodeau’s tarnished reputation brought about by The Athletic’s anonymous player poll where he was voted as the least favorite NBA coach.

“That poll, for me — and excuse my language — but it doesn’t mean [expletive],” DiVincenzo told The Athletic’s Sam Amick. “I’ve seen the poll, but I signed here.”

DiVincenzo chose the Knicks over the Minnesota Timberwolves because of his college teammates Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart, and after seeking advice from his former Golden State Warriors teammate Stephen Curry, The Athletic reported on February 28.

It proved to be the right move.

DiVincenzo is enjoying a career season in his first year under Thibodeau as Brunson’s backcourt partner. He’s averaging 14.3 points, including 3.2 3s per game on 8.1 attempts in 27 minutes — all career highs. Despite the uptick in his 3-point attempts, he’s matching his career-best 39.7% accuracy from deep which he established with the Warriors last season.

Already at 219 3-pointers with still a dozen games left, DiVincenzo is on pace to eclipse Evan Fournier’s franchise-record 241 3-pointers he established just two seasons ago.

Half of the credit should go to his work ethic. And the other half should go to Thibodeau, who trusted him to start after initially coming off the bench at the beginning of the season.

The Knicks Coach’s Reputation

Thibodeau’s reputation as an old-school coach who runs his players to the ground started in Chicago where his past Bulls team faded at the end of his tenure there after a quick start, challenging LeBron James and his past Cleveland Cavaliers teams.

The long, hard practices, long minutes of his star players and injuries to his stars, particularly Derrick Rose, gave Thibodeau a bad reputation.

“I don’t care (about Thibodeau’s reputation),” DiVincenzo told The Athletic. “I don’t care. Guys in the NBA now (are different) than before. Everybody wants the game all offense. Nobody wants to come in and practice. But me, being my first year here, I think he’s done a great job of balancing things.

“From the outside world, there’s always (a different view). But in our house — in-house — we have a good dynamic and we enjoy it and everybody enjoys being around each other. To the outside world, you don’t really know. All you know is perception. All you know is the history from other teams (Thibodeau has coached) and his years with different organizations. But we’ve had plenty of rest days, plenty of off days.”

‘The Most Prepared’ Coach

But to Thibodeau’s credit, he’s a proven winning coach wherever he goes. He’s earned a reputation for being the most prepared coach in the league, demanding his players to play the regular season like it’s the playoffs.

Thibodeau was aware of the criticisms which followed him from Chicago to Minnesota and New York. Before he took the Knicks job, he told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that he has evolved as a coach after visiting the Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers practices during his sabbatical following his firing in Minnesota.

He is no longer the tough taskmaster that he once was during his past coaching stops.

DiVincenzo told The Athletic they’re not practicing as hard as Thibodeau used to demand from his past teams or what people thought they would under him.

“I played for (the Warriors’ Steve) Kerr and played for Coach Bud (former Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer),” DiVincenzo told The Athletic. “It’s not like you come here and all of a sudden you’re just running track every day (in practice). I think what he does by far better than anybody I’ve been around is he’s the most prepared. So it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go for two hours on your feet and running. But when you’re in there, you’re gonna lock in and you’re gonna get the stuff done and we’re gonna get out of there.”


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