Tom Thibodeau, Tony Soprano, and the New York Knicks

Tom Thibodeau's coaching style never changes, and that's a problem.

Tom Thibodeau’s coaching style never changes, and that’s a problem.
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Almost a year ago, I contemplating the soul of the Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, is looking for answers to his most challenging coaching dilemmas. Humans tend to make connections, compare and contrast, to make sense of the chaos around us. In the NBA world, Thibodeau shares much of the gray matter that makes Tony Soprano so compelling as a case study of the human capacity to change.

That original paper raised more questions than it answered. When I wrote that first question, almost a year ago, Thibodeau was in the early stages of a sale season. Especially when compared to the magical vibes and results of the 2020-21 season, which earned him the title of Coach of the Year. In the first four games of this season, Thibodeau’s rigidity showed cracks. He allowed the bench to make runs, trusting Cam Reddish to finish the game and hand attacking control to Jalen Brunson. Julius Randle, Christopher Moltisanti on Thibodeau’s team, who you want to support but do whatever it takes to make you want to strangle him, has only six spins across five games. Randle is looking for teammates to open up, limit excessive dribbling and score goals during fouling. The Knicks are 3-1, and Knicks fans feel like Team Soprano, hang out first Satriale’s Pork Shopsmoke cigars, read newspapers and enjoy some well-earned money.

Then came games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers, real NBA talents, good teams with a winning record and plenty of stars. The Knicks lost both easily. While neither game ended, Thibodeau returned with many of the pitfalls that made him the focus of Knicks fans last season. Most notably, Obi Toppin’s minutes limit is 17 and 15 minutes, respectively. Toppin shot 4-7 in both of those games. Thibodeau’s relationship with Toppin and Randle was the connecting point where much of his coaching problems converged. The extension cord he gave Randle was 10 times as long as the rope he pulled for Toppin. Even ordinary people can realize this. Thibodeau seems to be fooled by Randle’s goodwill, especially when the power of transition back to toxic traits makes him the most polarizing player to ever wear a Knicks uniform.

“We are soldiers. Soldiers don’t go to hell.” – Tony Soprano

So, a year later, where is Tony, I mean Tom, now? We don’t know if Thibodeau has his own Dr. Melfi, a voice of reason and accountability. The Knicks are notoriously private to the point of having a pose. Even if he did, who among his supporters would take on that role? Leon Rose? William “WorldWide” Wesley? Rick Brunson? He’s known all three for years. They’re essentially versions of Silvio Dante, Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero and his Paulie Gualtieri, the men in the company enjoying the optics their friend brings as a trainer. . Thibodeau exhibits confidence, leadership, and responsibility, even when those traits are misguided and guilty.

It is also the fault of this current head office for its inability to draft/sign/trade/convince a genuine first choice to make MSG their home. Rose has provided Thibodeau with a dense lineup, full of utility, full of variation and untapped potential. But it is also hampered by duplication and positional rigidity. Randle was the best player, but Toppin was the most promising. The bench is deep but rarely integrated with five starters. Fournier is fine when hot from three but that is rarely the case.

“Being indecisive is more than making the wrong decision.” – Tony Soprano

After the team’s most recent loss to the Atlanta Hawks, something has changed. While the losses to the Cavs and Bucks feel justified in that the Knicks lost to clearly stronger teams, the Knicks’ wasted 23 points against the Hawks feel ultimately. In the third quarter, they were 32 to 10 behind. That inflated lead is tied to the team’s third-biggest blown lead in more than 30 seasons. An almost bad loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, where they were 145 points away. And yes, Julius Randle was terrible. He has taken 46.7% shots from the pitch this season and 33.3% from three. Remember the six spins in just the first four games? He is currently earning more transfers on average than assists. However, Thibodeau’s symbiotic addiction to Randle persisted. Christopher Moltisanti is one of Tony’s biggest fears throughout Sopranos. He is the family but also the biggest responsibility of the criminal family. His drinking, drug use, and unpredictability are thorns for Tony. Randle is a terrifying fit for the role for Thibodeau.

When the opportunity presented itself in one of the series’ final episodes, “Kennedy and Heidi,” Tony blocked Christopher’s nose after a car crash, suffocating his grandson and ending the threat that he made. he represents. As for Tony, he’s helping Christopher, saving him from himself. And that is probably the biggest difference between Tom and Tony. When Tony saw it, he took it. When Tom looked up at the scoreboard to see another lost lead, his intuitive reaction told him Randle was the answer.

“Sometimes it’s important to give them the illusion that they’re in control.” —Jennifer Melfi

The first logical step in finding a solution to the Knicks’ current paradox is to fire Thibodeau. Maybe he’s willing to change, we’ve seen an increase. He embraced the three-pointer shot. He improved the Knicks’ defensive identity. Sometimes, he got the best basketball he could out of Randle. But his coaching style is gone and his stubbornness is almost arrogant when he is so dependent on starters. He was triggered by his boss Rose, who built a mediocre roster with no real first choice. With each Knicks win, such as their super-exciting revenge match against the Thunder on Monday, it feels like Thibodeau’s leash gets bigger and bigger. While it’s great to see Miles “Deuce” McBride finally dusting off a sweltering defense against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one match didn’t remedy Thibodeau’s lack of offensive creativity or rotation ability. typical nine.

The Knicks fell deep but Thibodeau rarely reached his full potential, aside from Isaiah Hartenstein and Immanuel Quickley. Toppin, Reddish, Sims and McBride were treated like serfs by Thibodeau. What’s a deep 12 for when Quentin Grimes is barely seen at all times and Toppin keeps his eyes on the bench, even if he’s got the best plus/minus on some nights? Toppin holds the most potential of the young core but is buried behind Thibodeau’s biggest henchmen. Leon Rose picked up high-value guys in Derrick Rose, Hartenstein, Reddish and Jalen Brunson, but he sniffed when it came to making a move to give the team the star the team desperately needed.

The signing of Brunson was a clever solution to the team’s two-decade-long dance of desolation at the guard point. He’s a blessing to a team full of players who need to start attacking and he’s worth every penny on the four-year, $104 million contract he has been awarded. But the roster improvements shouldn’t stop there. Perhaps the cost of entering the Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes is too high. Most Knicks fans don’t want to give up more than two unprotected picks plus a collection of Barrett, Toppin, Quickley and Quentin Grimes. But what about Dejounte Murray? The Knicks can easily beat what the Hawks put up for a keeper, who almost averaged a double three seasons ago. Since taking over the team, Rose has improved the roster through trade, free agency, and the Draft, providing Thibodeau with just enough to rack up around 40 wins a year and make it to the knockout stages once. . But he has not built a team ready to play at a high level, nor has he hired a coach capable of leading a team at that level to the promised land.

Fired Thibodeau isn’t the only move to make, but it’s the bare minimum. This Knicks roster is on the verge of unleashing its potential and going against Thibodeau’s directive to win at all costs. To achieve the full development of the young core, it will take a lot of trial and error disguised as defeat. Thibodeau would rather stay in one near-death coma than not playing Rose, Fournier and Randle. To reach mediocrity and beyond, this Knicks team needs to be free to lose in order to learn. As it stands, the Knicks are languishing in one of the furthest rounds of Dante’s Inferno.

“I feel I must be the sad clown; Outside laughing, inside crying. – Tony Soprano

Where does that leave the team? Step one, fire Thibodeau and his entire coaching staff, save for Chief Assistant Johnnie Bryant. Empower Bryant and surround him with a mix of veteran and forward-thinking assistant coaches. Then do what it takes to transact Randle while returning the transaction value. If that ends up in the form of a set of expiring deals, a first pick and a young player, so be it. At this point, Randle will be making a profit similar to what the Knicks received for Kristaps Porziņģis from the Dallas Mavericks in 2017. When Randle is gone, start Toppin as forward with Grimes or Reddish in position. shooting guard position, move Fournier to the forward position. Bench. Simple isn’t it?

To be fair, Rose has done a lot of good in her short time at the helm. Thankfully, the Knicks don’t have to deal with countless huge salaries like in previous years. They have a collection of tradable contracts, as well as one of the best youth centers in the league. Through a series of shrewd moves, they collected the first seven picks over the next three seasons, though four of them were heavily guarded. They have enough talent in almost any position to handle a trade that leaves them with a loss of depth while maintaining balance in the roster.

With all that said, today, more than in any other decade, talent always wins. The NBA champions of the past 5 years have accumulated many talented stars in the starting lineup and the bench, combined with an elite coach. The Knicks have an elite bench, and that’s it. The Knicks have no stars, let alone superstars, and are assigned a coach who has a symbiotic relationship with both the best player and his office boss. As Tony sits comfortably in the booth at Holsten’s diner with his family, with Journey on the jukebox, the level of tension in the scene goes beyond Tony flipping through the menu casually. By the time the screen goes black, and we’re left in the dark and with our own thoughts, we can assume Tony has been killed. Who pulled the trigger is not as important as why. The answer to that is Tony’s own doing, by refusing to change. Through a series of events, most if not all of which are within his control, he has chosen a path that leads him to that stall and the man in it. Member-only jackets. In the end, when Thibodeau is confidently handed his pink slip by his longtime friend and Rose, the reason why in his case is easily answered.


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