Tom Thibodeau has quarantined in Connecticut — unclear of his next move, just like everyone else in the NBA. Since being ingloriously ousted in Minnesota amid his third season as coach/president, Thibodeau had attended various NBA/college practices. He has spent lots of hours imbedded with the Clippers, Warriors and Celtics, among others, trying to keep …
Tom Thibodeau has quarantined in Connecticut — unclear of his next move, just like everyone else in the NBA.
Since being ingloriously ousted in Minnesota amid his third season as coach/president, Thibodeau had attended various NBA/college practices. He has spent lots of hours imbedded with the Clippers, Warriors and Celtics, among others, trying to keep close to the game.
Minnesota is still on the hook to pay Thibodeau for next season, but indications are the former Knicks assistant coach is itching to get back for 2020-21.
The Post reported in February that Thibodeau would be on Leon Rose’s short list and looked to be a favorite if the new team president chose not to bring back Mike Miller as head coach.
While his reputation took a hit with the failure in bringing Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and allegedly mishandling young talent, sources told The Post the Nets and Houston will have strong interest, too. Houston’s Mike D’Antoni will be a free agent.
It appears Thibodeau would have interest in all three jobs. But the Knicks would get first crack at their former assistant coach since they won’t be competing in any potential playoffs.
Plus, Thibodeau, a Creative Artists Agency client, has worked with Rose, who knows his old-school ways with players — and likes that toughness.
According to sources, Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving each like and respect Thibodeau, who coached them as a Team USA assistant.
“Kevin’s a basketball junkie, he loves him,’’ one NBA source familiar with the situation said. “Great players want to be coached, except the lazy ones. If they think the coach has a higher basketball IQ than them, they’re all in.’’
After his Jan. 6, 2019 firing, Thibodeau faced claims he’s too intense on young players and out of touch with Millennials unfamiliar with long, hard practices in the load-management NBA.
“If you are going to heap blame on Tom, you have to give him credit as well,’’ said Bernie Lee, Butler’s agent. “So often, NBA teams play it safe or stay on the fence and don’t want to be tied to actual results. Tom took a big risk that came with big results that ultimately proved to not be sustainable, but it’s what was required at that time.”
Indeed, Thibodeau, in his second season in Minnesota, broke the Wolves’ 13-year playoff drought with a 47-35 record in 2017-18. He won 72.1 percent of his home games in his last two seasons and established multiple franchise records, including the highest offensive efficiency — 110.8 per 100 possessions.
It has been well-documented he clashed with Karl-Anthony Towns, who could be a potential Knicks trade target, and Andrew Wiggins. Last July, Towns said Thibodeau’s handling of young players was “a disrespect and a slap in the face to their development.”
Butler, meanwhile, didn’t like what he saw in the attitudes of Wiggins and Towns last season and demanded a trade. Butler is now leading Miami to a revival.
Thibodeau took the fall in Minnesota as he had lobbied to bring in Butler and gave up Zach LaVine and the rights to Lauri Markkanen. Minnesota sources said Thibodeau was too obsessed with bringing in former Bulls players, including current Knick Taj Gibson.
“I don’t think Thibs can be held responsible for a player having free choice and choosing something else,’’ Lee said. “I think even after [Butler] chose to leave, Thibs showed an ability to block out a ton of noise and focus on the job he was hired to do. That team was showing signs of improvement.
“You will not find a bigger Thibs supporter in a real way than Jimmy.”
Thibodeau is known as a defensive taskmaster, but support for his traditional offense flagged in the 3-point mad NBA. Thibodeau’s teams have never finished higher than 16th in the league in 3-pointers per game.
If he doesn’t win style points, the best case for Thibodeau is his winning style.
Though he also clashed with Bulls management on the way out, Thibodeau’s career winning percentage is .647 — 11th winningest coach all time among those who have coached 500-plus games.
While Miller has done a respectable job and status quo amid a global pandemic is a safe play, this was his first season in the NBA. A Thibodeau hire would mark the Knicks’ biggest marquee coaching addition since D’Antoni.
Of the four Knicks coaches hired after D’Antoni, all entered the position with a winning percentage under .500 — Mike Woodson (.419), Derek Fisher (who had never coached), Jeff Hornacek (.474) and David Fizdale (.495).
Thibodeau’s winning percentage wasn’t enough to save him, as Minnesota hired Ryan Saunders, the son of a legend Flip Saunders, and the Wolves stand at 19-45.
“The character assassination from ownership and management circles in Chicago and Minnesota were horrific,’’ the NBA source said. “Owners don’t like to be wrong. They covered their tracks. In Minnesota, there was a deep history of failure and you have to shock them into knowing how bad they’ve been.
“He saw some young talent that he saw had a poor work ethic. Are you going to be harder on them than the previous administration?’’ the source added. “Look how happy Towns was with Saunders and look how bad they got. If they don’t like his style or methodology, obviously they want a warm and fuzzy family atmosphere like they have now.’’
Butler’s agent believes the key to working with Thibodeau is not taking anything personally. Thibodeau’s two mentors, Bill Musselman and Jeff Van Gundy, were gruffer than he is.
“Tom once threw me out of their practice facility so they could get to work and then took me to dinner and didn’t mention a word of it and was on to the next task,’’ Lee said.
In a departure, Thibodeau was a panelist in March at Boston’s Sloan Sports Conference — the cathedral of analytics — as he continued to try and develop, according to a source. Though Thibodeau’s teams have never been devoted to pace-and-space, he agreed layups, corner 3s and free throws are priorities because of their high value.
However, Thibodeau said he most prioritized “diversification of offense.” According to a transcript of the Sloan event printed by The Athletic, Thibodeau said, “How are the playoffs being played? If you looked at the shot profile of Golden State, they were prolific shooting 3s because of Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson], but they also were very good at the pick-and-roll game, catch and shoot, and utilized the post-up for the split game, which got them layups. To win in the playoffs, you have to have balance.”
The Knicks, Nets and Rockets may decide that’s exactly what they need — a little of everything, and a lot of wins.
“You have to respect his commitment to his craft,’’ Lee said. “He’s a throwback. He’s the without a doubt the best person on the market.’’