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Tom Thibodeau nearing agreement to become Knicks coach

By Sopan Deb

Tom Thibodeau, a defensive-minded coach who most recently led the Minnesota Timberwolves, is nearing an agreement to take the reins of the New York Knicks, a source with knowledge of the negotiations said Saturday. Thibodeau, who had been an assistant coach for the Knicks from 1996-2003, will become the team’s eighth coach since 2012.

The story was first reported by ESPN.

Thibodeau, 62, had been considered a front-runner for the job since the spring, especially once William Wesley, more commonly known around the NBA as World Wide Wes, was added to the Knicks front office. Thibodeau was once Wesley’s client at the sports and entertainment giant Creative Artists Agency, and Leon Rose, the Knicks president, was also an agent at CAA, where he worked alongside Thibodeau.

Thibodeau, a New Britain, Conn. native, has cultivated a reputation for having a single-minded obsession for basketball in his decades-long coaching career. His first coaching job was as an assistant at his alma mater, Salem State College in Salem, Mass. In the NBA, he was a highly regarded assistant from 1989-2010, best known for being the architect of the staunch Boston Celtics defense that led the team to a championship in 2008.

In 2010, Thibodeau became head coach of the Chicago Bulls and was an immediate success. He would become the fastest head coach to accumulate 100 regular season victories. In his first year with the Bulls, the team won 62 games and went to the Eastern Conference Finals. It would be his high-water mark as a coach.

The Bulls would not get out of the second round again for the rest of Thibodeau’s Bulls tenure, which lasted four more years. He was fired in 2015, after developing a reputation for clashing with players and the front office, as well as for overworking star players. In 2016, Thibodeau was hired as coach and president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves. But in three seasons, the Timberwolves were largely unsuccessful, making the playoffs once and losing in the first round. The tenure was most defined by Jimmy Butler’s public trade demand that spilled into a dramatic practice. Thibodeau was abruptly fired midseason last year.

Thibodeau went 255-139 with the Bulls and 97-107 with the Timberwolves.

But even with recent missteps, Thibodeau will bring decades worth of experience to a young roster in flux, as Rose attempts to rebuild the franchise’s credibility for star free-agent recruits. And very few available coaches are as aware of the fan base’s craving for success: Thibodeau was a coach for the Knicks in the late 1990s, the last time the team was considered a powerhouse.

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