Why Tom Thibodeau Can't Get a Job
Should that be a knock? That's what Van Gundy wonders aloud in an interview with Dave D'Alessandro for the Newark Star-Ledger. The Nets, of course, have an opening at coach, as do the 76ers, Hornets, Bulls and Clippers. JVG has been mentioned as a candidate everywhere, and remains perhaps the most sought-after free agent coach in the nation. While he demurs on the New Jersey job, he does endorse Thibodeau, who is expected to be a candidate in Philly and New Orleans.
When D'Alessandro suggests to JVG that Thibodeau has perhaps been overlooked because of his intensity, Van Gundy makes a really, really good point: what about all the other intense coaches? Pat Riley and Phil Jackson are intense. I'd argue both Van Gundys, Avery Johnson (another top candidate), Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich are all pretty intense, too. Is Thibodeau really more intense than any of those guys?
Further, isn't this the exact opposite of how players are treated? If a player isn't intense enough, he's lazy or lacks heart. Few players are considered too intense. Thibodeau's power forward Kevin Garnett might be one of the only ones who's been asked to dial it back. And he was an MVP. Intensity is a good thing among players. A desired quality. But for Thibodeau, has it been as albatross?
That's tough to say without delving into each and every one of the vacancies Thibodeau interviewed for. The Kings, for what it's worth, interviewed Thibodeau two separate times, and reportedly came away really impressed. But the most recent opportunity, last summer, the team needed to provide a little stability, and went with former Suns coach Paul Westphal over Thibodeau. As it turns out, actually nailing down one of the 30 NBA head coaching jobs is pretty tough. Assistants fight their whole careers to ascend the ladder. Thibodeau's been in the league 20 years. Maybe his time will come soon, and that "too intense to be a head coach of 20-year-old millionaires" thing can be proven or set out on the curb with the garbage.