The handpicked option by president of basketball operations Phil Jackson to lead New York back to prominence has been ousted less than 150 games into his tenure.
The Knicks made the stunning announcement of the firing of Derek Fisher early Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the team lost to Denver Sunday afternoon, marking the ninth time it has fallen in the past 10 games.
The poor stretch dropped New York to 12th place in the Eastern Conference, 5.5 games behind Detroit for the final playoff berth.
Kurt Rambis — a former assistant coach of Jackson’s with the Lakers — has been tabbed as the interim coach, but hardly provides a long term solution for the franchise.
Minnesota named Rambis its coach in 2009, but after posting a 32-132 record in two seasons, he was fired.
The ideal fit for the Knicks is not only available, but has already expressed an interest in the coaching vacancy.
Tom Thibodeau was an assistant for New York from 1996-2004 then has gone on to assemble one of the most impressive coaching resumes in the league.
At every stop, Thibodeau has been able to transform his team into an elite defensive team. The Knicks had the third best defense in the league during his stint, then he was able to replicate the same numbers from 2004 to 2007 as an assistant in Houston.
Doc Rivers brought Thibodeau to Boston in 2008 and he immediately transformed the Celtics into the most dominant defensive team in the league.
In his first season with Boston, Kevin Garnett won the Defensive Player of the Year award and guided the the team to its 17th title in franchise history, the same season Thibodeau was appointed associate head coach.
Boston was statistically the best defensive team in the league during each of Thibodeau’s three seasons with the team.
The defensive philosiphy of Thibodeau essentially breaks down to five key principles:
- Prevent dribble penetration
- Seal off passing lanes
- Contest every shot
- Control the defensive boards
- Avoid committing fouls
After 20 seasons as an assistant, with seven spent in New York, Thibodeau was finally given the opportunity to coach his own team in Chicago.
The impact he provided was immediate. The Bulls improved by 21 victories, jumped from 11th to the most efficient defensive team in the league, went from surrendering 99.1 points to 91.3 points per game and point guard Derrick Rose was named MVP.
Thibodeau even managed to crush his first draft, selecting Marquette guard Jimmy Butler with the 30th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Throughout his tenure in Chicago, Thibodeau displayed a knack for maximizing the talent on his roster, molding Butler into an All-Star and guided Joakim Noah to the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013-14.
In five seasons, the Bulls won 64.7 percent of its regular season games, finished first or second in defensive efficiency three times and managed to remain a championship contender despite numerous injuries to Rose.
Thibodeau’s tenure in Chicago ended abruptly, as he had clashed with team management throughout the season about playing time. The Bulls front office felt he was running players into the ground, while Thibodeau believed team executives were meddling with his team.
Under Thibodeau, Luol Deng led the league in minutes per game twice, while Butler played the most minutes last season. In five seasons, a player logged at least 2,500 minutes on seven occasions.
Many teams try and limit the amount of time a star player spends on the floor, the exact reason why Golden State guard Stephen Curry has sat out the entire fourth quarter on 14 instances this season.
Hiring Thibodeau in New York makes sense on numerous levels.
Thibodeau already has established a rapport with Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, as he has served as an assistant for Team USA in each of the past four years, and also nearly convinced Anthony to sign with the Bulls as a free agent two years ago.
The presence of Thibodeau could convince other free agents with connections to Team USA, most notably Kevin Durant, to sign with the Knicks.
There is a glaring need for a point guard on the roster, so if the Knicks don’t pursue one in free agency, Thibodeau may be able to once again find a gem late in the draft.
New York already has a promising young defender in Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-3 rookie that ranks seventh in the NBA in blocks at 1.9 per game, a player Thibodeau can transform into a contender for Defensive Player of the Year.
Plus, the area lacking on Thibodeau’s resume — playoff success — can be supplemented by the presence of Jackson.
The last time New York had a coaching vacancy, it settled for Fisher, naming him to the position just nine days after he retired as a point guard in Oklahoma City.
Appointing Rambis as interim coach is a waste of time, Thibodeau is a perfect fit.