While it has been quite some time since the Knicks contended meaningfully, anyone that was ever a part of a winner at Madison Square Garden has managed to maintain lifelong fan-favorite status in New York. Every time the Knicks’ head-coaching job opens up, former point guard Mark Jackson and former coach Jeff Van Gundy draw support, but this time around, the frontrunner is another former Knick, Tom Thibodeau.
Thibodeau was a Knicks assistant from 1996-2004, first under Van Gundy and later under Don Chaney. While he went on to make his name elsewhere, Thibodeau is now a serious candidate for the head job in New York. According to Newsday’s Steve Popper, he has one very prominent supporter in Knicks lore: Patrick Ewing.
“I think Tom’s a great coach,” Ewing said. “I had the opportunity to have him be on the staff when I played and also work with him. He’s been around a lot of years. He knows the game in and out. He’s going to do everything he needs to do in terms of having his team prepared to play every night. I think he’d be a great candidate for that job.”
Ewing played under Thibodeau from 1996-2000 and worked with him on Van Gundy’s staff in Houston from 2004-2007. Ironically, Ewing previously expressed his own interest in coaching the Knicks, though he now leads his alma mater, Georgetown. As such, he holds no official title with the Knicks, but his word still holds weight among Knicks fans. Ewing is arguably the greatest player in the franchise’s history, and while he himself does not work for the Knicks, it should be noted that former teammate Allan Houston, who also played for Thibodeau, is currently a member of New York’s front office and has firsthand experience working with him.
The Knicks have been interviewing a multitude of candidates over Zoom, and no hiring is imminent. Whomever they ultimately hire, though, will need to connect with the city of New York in order to succeed. Whether or not Thibodeau could ultimately do that remains to be seen, but an endorsement from Ewing can only help on that front.