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Tom Thibodeau says he brings broader perspective on load management to next job

Tom Thibodeau Knicks

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau poses for a photograph during the NBA basketball team’s media day at Target Center, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)


Tom Thibodeau wants to coach in the NBA again and is considered a leading candidate for the New York Knicks job.

Thibodeau also has the reputation of a coach who is no fan of analytics or load management, an old-school guy who pushes his players hard. As his stint in Minnesota — and bringing in Jimmy Butler — showed, that doesn’t work with every team and player.

After taking a step back, traveling around the league, and watching other coaches, Thibodeau sounded like a man with a broader perspective talking to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on The Woj Pod. Maybe his greatest lesson was watching Doc Rivers and the Clippers.

“I couldn’t believe the shootarounds, I was like, ‘If I did that, they’d hang me.’ They were phenomenal. But [Rivers] is the best at managing the day before, in between, they had that day off, but everybody came in. And their young guys really work, and the older guys were getting treatment and recovery. So understanding who your team is and what everyone needs.

“And there’s more to it because you have to be careful not to divide your team.”

Rivers’ Clippers probably practice less than any team in the league (insert your own “allowing more time for Rivers to golf” joke here). His core is made up of veteran guys — Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams — and he trusts them to know what they need to do to be ready. Rivers treats them like adults then calls them out when they are not. He’s earned his players’ loyalty for that.

Thibodeau seemed to understand he needed to evolve with the times.

“The way everyone’s managing with load management and where your team is, sports scientists, so it’s different. And if your team is young and you’re in a rebuild, you’re probably practicing more than an older veteran team. In some cases where the team is mixed, there’s almost two practices going on in one, where your young guys are getting the work they need, and the older vets are in the weight room getting strength and conditioning.”

The Knicks would be a mostly young team in need of development — RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, their 2020 NBA Draft pick — but with the potential to trade for a star is one came available. This is still James Dolan’s Knicks, not an organization known for their patient rebuilds.

Thibodeau talked about wanting to be in an organization where there was an alignment between ownership, management, and the coach. He’s been around the block now in the NBA, Thibodeau knows what he is looking for, and he has a long relationship with the man now running Knicks’ basketball, Leon Rose. Whether that’s enough to get him the job, and whether he’d be a good fit, depends on who you ask.

Thibodeau, for his part, is getting out there and laying the groundwork for how he’s ready for the Knicks’ job now.