Tom Thibodeau forced a weak laugh to show what he thought of the insinuation.
A report in the New York Daily News—penned by the same writer, Mitch Lawrence, that accurately called the Bulls’ trade of All-Star small forward Luol Deng—this time states that Thibodeau and New York, his former employer, “already have a deal in place” for him to coach the Knicks next season.
The story goes on to talk about how Thibodeau is in the first season of his four-year contract extension and if the Bulls head coach indeed made the move, an investigation as to whether tampering was involved would be forthcoming. The coach dismissed the entire story out of pocket following Saturday night’s 103-97 Bulls’ win over the Bobcats at the United Center.
“Come on, now. Come on,” Thibodeau scoffed. “That stuff’s ridiculous. It really is. First, I was being traded. I could care less about that stuff. I’ve said it before: I love this team, I love the guys that we have and I love the fighting spirit of this team, so that’s all I’m thinking about.”
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The thing is, this isn’t something new—well, maybe the part about an agreement being in place, something that has been circulating the NBA grapevine as of late—and after the Bulls jettisoned Deng, arguably Thibodeau’s favorite player, and considering that it’s impossible to predict the future return to health of former league MVP Derrick Rose, the story could have some merit to it.
After all, Thibodeau’s former boss, current Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, left Boston when faced with a rebuilding situation and perhaps more significantly, was given personnel say-so. While Steve Mills calls the shots in New York at the moment, the Knicks’ executive vice president’s background is running Madison Square Garden, meaning he isn’t a so-called “basketball guy” and might be open to a high-profile coach having some front-office influence, something that matches the desire of Thibodeau and any other sideline skipper.
There’s also the matter of compensation and since the Knicks don’t have a first-round draft pick for years, New York wouldn’t be able to offer the same package the Clippers gave the Celtics, but simply taking over the remainder of Thibodeau’s four-year, nearly $18-million contract—one suited for the coach of a title contender, not a team in the midst of retooling—might be worth it, with some financial relief thrown in to save face. For the Knicks, it could be worth it, if it means hanging on to All-Star Carmelo Anthony and getting not only an upper-echelon NBA head coach familiar with his surroundings in Thibodeau, but one with the added benefit of being an USA Basketball assistant, which could serve as fertile recruiting ground.
But to go as far as saying that an agreement, even a tacit one, has been made, is something that’s unlikely to be able to be proven, even if the situation plays out in the aforementioned fashion.