Kemba Walker’s College Coach Throws Shade at Tom Thibodeau

Kemba Walker

Getty New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau and guard Kemba Walker during a Novmber 8 game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Amidst the New York Knicks‘ underwhelming 2021-2022 campaign, perhaps no narrative has filled more headlines than the arrival–and subsequent exile–of point guard Kemba Walker.

The four-time All-Star signed a two-year, $18-million deal with the team this offseason after securing a buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But that was with the expectation that he would inject life into a stagnant offense.

Instead, he’s been a shell of himself, despite arguing before the season that he was 100% healthy upon arrival.

After going from starting point guard to sidelined on the bench, to injured and brought back into the lineup, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that he’ll miss the rest of the season:

The 31-year old averaged a career-worst 11.6 points and 3.5 assists over 37 appearances with New York this year.

But his former UCONN head coach is arguing that Kemba Walker shouldn’t be the only one to shoulder the blame for his lackluster homecoming with the Knicks.

It’s head coach Tom Thibodeau, he’s (via the New York Post) arguing, that should share credit for the point guard–and likely the team’s–shortcomings:

Thibodeau is a very good coach. But like a lot of us, he can be dogmatic at times. He likes big-sized guards who play great defense. And maybe he didn’t want a small guard. All I know is the guy he signed in August was 5-foot-11, 6-foot. He was that when he started training camp. He was that when he was a four-time All-Star. My point being, they knew what they were getting. I just think Thibodeau wasn’t so excited about playing him.

One could argue that unlike his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Tom Thibodeau isn’t calling 100% of the personnel decisions in New York.

That being said, it’s still up to the two-time Coach of the Year to get the most out of the assembled roster.

Now, because he hasn’t, it’s not just Jim Calhoun that’s going public with criticism for the head coach.

The entire New York Knicks fanbase has made it clear that they’re ready to see the franchise make a change.

Fans Calling for Coaching Change

There’s speculation mounting that he could be let go before the season’s finish, and with only 19 games to go, that’d certainly be quite the accomplishment.

That sentiment’s certainly endorsed by Knicks fans, who’ve interpreted this latest Instagram story from Immanuel Quickley as a sign of change to come:

Next to the New York guard is assistant coach Johnnie Bryant, who would presumably be the next man up in any instance where Tom Thibodeau is given the boot.

He’s certainly the fan-favorite for if that was to ever play into the New York Knicks’ decision.

That much is apparent based on the responses to Immanuel Quickley’s story.

Fan @SOUL_GIFTED on Twitter went as far as making the assumption that he’ll replace Thibodeau in any circumstance:

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As did so many, many more:

While other fans like @KnickWitAtitude took the opportunity to make note of Bryant’s presence on the sideline during timeouts, as displayed in Quickley’s post:

Whether the New York Knicks front office is ready to move on from Tom Thibodeau or not remains unclear.

But the possibility where both he and Kemba Walker aren’t with the team next year is becoming increasingly likely.

Calhoun: ‘He’s Great For a Team’

In that same interview with Marc Beman of the New York Post, former UCONN head coach Jim Calhoun spoke on the state of Kemba Walker’s spiraling NBA career.

Unsurprisingly, he remains optimistic that the four-time All-Star can turn things around, whether in New York or elsewhere:

He wants to continue to play. He needs to be 100 percent who he is. One thing I’m sure of and positive–he’s going to do everything humanly possible to get back to playing…There’s people who really, really want him there [in New York]. It’s that simple. I’m not saying Tom doesn’t, but he pulled him out early. That was their decision. Not mine. I love [Walker] for a lot of things he does beyond jump shots and playing defense. He’s great for a team.

Ironically, it’s those last two aspects of the game, defense, and shotmaking, where Walker’s struggled most this year.

Calhoun mentioned that behind the point guard’s decision to shut himself down for the season, may have been some frustration around his inability to play in back-to-back games:

He came back, did well and still wasn’t 100 percent in the sense of not being able to play every game. The decision was made by him, and the Knicks agreed. One thing I know is Kemba doesn’t like playing two games and then have to take a game off. That’s not much fun. He wants to get back and healthy so he can be there all the time. He doesn’t want to hurt the team. He’s a competitor.

Nothing about this season in the Big Apple has been fun, safe to say.

And after missing 45 games in the previous two seasons, and nine this season, it’s uncertain whether there’s any chance of Kemba Walker ever “being himself” again.

It seems the New York Knicks are comfortable gambling that he won’t.

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