Some consider Julius Randle a Knicks savior. But before he could key this season’s unexpected turnaround, he needed a few saviors of his own. That’s where Leon Rose and William “World Wide
Some consider Julius Randle a Knicks savior. But before he could key this season’s unexpected turnaround, he needed a few saviors of his own.
That’s where Leon Rose and William “World Wide Wes” Wesley, now the Knicks’ president and executive vice president, come in.
“It was kind of like they saved me,” the 6-foot-8 All-Star forward said on ESPN’s “The Woj Pod.”
Randle struggled in his first season as a Knick, before Rose and Wesley joined the organization from Creative Artists Agency, which represents Randle. On one night in particular, Randle was feeling down. He met with Rose, Wesley and Kenny Payne, then as assistant coach at Kentucky, where Randle played college ball, telling them everything that was going wrong. Several months later, they were all part of the same organization.
“Leon took the job and not too [much later] Wes took the job with him,” the 26-year-old Randle said. “And Wes called me. He’s like, ‘Yo, what do you need to be an All-Star? What do you need to lead this team?’ One of the things I told him, ‘I really need a coach to hold me accountable, I need a coach to push me.’ ”
That coach is Tom Thibodeau. His staff included Payne, who recruited Randle at Kentucky and helped him develop into a one-and-done lottery pick there. Under Thibodeau, Randle is enjoying a breakout season, leading the Knicks (33-27), who will ride an eight-game winning streak into a Saturday matinee against the Raptors at the Garden, to a likely playoff berth. Randle has developed into one of the sport’s premier forwards, averaging team-highs of 23.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He has given Thibodeau a ton of credit not only for his play, but also for the team as a whole. He has provided stability, accountability and, most of all, a winning mentality.
“No matter what’s going on throughout the season, guys down for injury, the schedule stuff, whatever it is, whatever’s thrown at us, we always say find a way to win. That’s really what it’s about for us,” Randle said. “I just wanted a coach that was going to push us and hold us accountable, that winning is the first thing and there are no other agendas.”
After last season, Randle forced himself to watch film of him playing, much of which he didn’t like. He was getting away with too much, not being coached hard enough. That’s obviously not a problem with the notoriously demanding Thibodeau. The two bonded early on. Randle put in extra work at the MSG Training Center late at night, when Thibodeau was there too, watching film in his office.
“When I came back, I was in great shape. He saw how serious I was about my craft,” Randle said. “We hit it off then. I really could sense the belief he had in me as a player, how he was empowering me. For me, that was huge. With a player and a coach, trust is everything. I really could tell he trusted me to lead this team. I didn’t want to let him down, I didn’t want to let my guys down.”
“When I say I’m really having the most fun in my career I’ve had, I really mean it. It’s a helluva time. It’s rare and I’m definitely not taking it for granted. I cherish it. I just want to keep building upon it.”
The Knicks are Randle’s third team in just his seventh season in the league. There’s just one year left on his contract, but he wouldn’t mind staying here for a very long time. Part of the reason Randle chose the Knicks in the first place was because he liked the idea of being part of building a winner from the ground up. He has seen the team at its worst and now he’s beginning to see what it’s like to be leading a winner here, too.
“There’s no better place than New York, I felt, to do it; no organization or fan base that’s hungrier for a championship-caliber team than here in New York,” Randle said. “For me, I wanted to be a part of that. Honestly, for the rest of my career, that’s really what I want. I wanted to be a Knick, I wanted to be one of the greats here. That was my thinking going into it.
“Hopefully, I can continue to be a part of that, hopefully keep building here, in the future bring a championship or championships here, because honestly I don’t think there would be any place better to win than here.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Zach Braziller