The New York Knicks and Tom Thibodeau are finalizing a five-year deal to make him the franchise’s next head coach, sources tell ESPN.
Knicks president Leon Rose and agent Spencer Breecker of CAA Sports were working Saturday to complete contractual terms, and a signed agreement is expected in the near future, sources said.
Rose and executive vice president William Wesley are completing a two-month search process, with Thibodeau long expected to emerge with the job. Together, they’ll be tasked with the daunting challenge of restoring a forlorn franchise to NBA relevance.
New York is counting on Thibodeau, who has a history in player development as a head coach and assistant, to put into place a program that will restore a competitive infrastructure with the Knicks. For now, Rose and Thibodeau inherit a roster that needs dramatic upgrades before a return to Eastern Conference contention is a realistic aspiration.
New York was 21-45 this season, missing the playoffs for the seventh straight year.
Thibodeau is 11th in career winning percentage for coaches with 500 or more games. He has a 352-246 (.589) record in eight seasons with Chicago and Minnesota.
Thibodeau, 62, comes to the Knicks after a tumultuous two-plus seasons with the Timberwolves that included the franchise’s first playoff berth in 14 years — and an unraveling centered on All-Star Jimmy Butler‘s trade demand that led to Thibodeau’s dismissal as president and coach in 2019.
Thibodeau had five playoff seasons with the Bulls, including a trip to the Eastern Conference finals and an NBA Coach of the Year award in 2011. A series of injuries to MVP Derrick Rose played a role in derailing the Bulls’ championship aspirations.
Thibodeau was a Knicks assistant under Jeff Van Gundy from 1996 to 2004 and has long desired to return to New York as a head coach. He’s a native of New Britain, Connecticut.
Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford, a close friend of Thibodeau’s who worked with him in New York on Van Gundy’s staff, found out about the news during the Magic’s scrimmage against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It’s great news,” Clifford said after the game during a video call. “As soon as we get back [to the hotel], I’ll call him. Look, he’s one of my closest friends. He’s one of the best coaches in the league and he understands New York. He was in New York for a long time. New York is a different animal. He understands the fan base, he understands the New York media, and he’s a great, great coach. So he’ll do great there and it’s a great hire on their part.”
Magic point guard D.J. Augustin, who had a career renaissance under Thibodeau in 2013-14 as a member of the Bulls, said he enjoyed his experience with the demanding Thibodeau and appreciated how hard he coached.
“For me, it was great,” Augustin said. “I’ve heard a lot of stories about Thibs, but for me, it was great. If you don’t want to play for a coach that’s going to really coach you and be hard on you, you don’t want to be great, so I loved playing for Thibs. He was a great coach, great guy, great motivator, so I’m really happy for him and I’m excited that he got that job. That’s a great job for him and for that organization.”
ESPN’s Nick Friedell contributed to this report.