New head coaches for New York NBA teams hope to have a positive impact


Dylan Albanese , Staff Writer

At the start of the next season, many teams across the NBA will have new head coaches.  The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are just two of the eight teams that have fired their head coach since last season.  The New York Knicks hired former NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau and the Brooklyn Nets have signed former NBA MVP Steve Nash.  Neither team has gotten out of the first round of the playoffs in over six years.  This lack of success in New York has caused Los Angeles to hold the title of “Basketball Capital of The World.”  However, with the new coaches in New York, this city could reclaim this title and live up to the high expectations of many fans.  

The New York Knicks are one of the most historic teams in the NBA, with eight finals appearances and two NBA championships.  They have had some successful times, including the early 1970s, with Willis Reed and Walt “Clyde” Frazier leading them to two NBA championships.  The 1990s was another exciting period; Patrick Ewing helped bring them to the playoffs 14 consecutive times and they even made it to two NBA Finals, but couldn’t win.  Since current New York Knicks owner James Dolan bought the team 21 years ago in 1999, they have gone to the playoffs only seven times, finished last place in the NBA seven times, and have played ten seasons in which they lost 50 games or more.  Also, they have had 13 head coaches in Dolan’s 21 years of ownership, which is significantly more than average.  

Under Dolan, the New York Knicks have not drafted and developed young players well and they have not attracted marquee free agents in over two decades.  The exception to this could be the New York Knicks’ RJ Barret, who is a talented passer and finisher around the rim, and Mitchell Robinson, who had the best field goal percentage in the history of the NBA over one

season.  Robinson and Barrett will be entering their third and second years, respectively, and will hopefully continue to blossom and lead the Knicks to glory.  However, other than them, they have a lot of young players who have not fulfilled their potential.  The few players that have played well on the Knicks, have been unhappy with the lack of team success and left the team.  Conversely, over the next four years the Knicks have seven first round draft picks that they acquired through trades, hopefully setting them up for a bright future.  

Tom Thibodeau will have to draft and develop all of his young players into elite NBA players in order to succeed.  This, though, is promising because Thibodeau is a veteran coach; he has been a head coach in the NBA for eight years, making the playoffs six of those years. 

“Coach Thibs has a great resume and has played with some amazing players. With his experience, he can hopefully help develop the younger players, attract a star, and lead the Knicks towards a winning culture again,” said sophomore Sean Mondshein. 

 He has been Eastern Conference Coach of the Month six times and was Head Coach of the Year in 2011 with the Chicago Bulls.  Thibodeau had a winning record with both the Bulls and the Minnesota Timberwolves, the two teams he previously coached.  Another aspect of coach Thibodeau is that he is considered “old school,” meaning he works his players into the ground and is extremely tough on them.  

“There are no shortcuts.  If you want to do something special, there’s a serious price to pay.  There’s no way around it.  Practice is important,” said Thibodeau.   

He has not been in the league for two years and many believe it is because of his tough-love coaching style.  Thibodeau has said he is going to try to lighten up on the players, so at the end of the season they are not exhausted and can still remain competitive.  However, this intensity could be what the Knicks need in order to change their culture and start winning again.  Their last playoff appearance was in 2013, with Carmelo Anthony and coach Mike Woodson.  

The Brooklyn Nets have always been the “second” team in New York since moving from New Jersey.  The New York Knicks have always “owned” New York, and have a much bigger fan base.  However, the Knicks lost New York to the Nets when the Nets signed superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this last offseason.  Both the Knicks and the Nets had enough cap space to sign them, but the all-stars chose the Nets instead of the Knicks.  People believe that this is due to the dysfunction of the Knicks organization under the ownership of James Dolan.  

The Brooklyn Nets hired Steve Nash to replace Kenny Atkinson as their coach.  Steve Nash was one of the greatest NBA players in history, as a two-time NBA MVP, eight-time all-star, and seven-time all-NBA selection.  Steve Nash never appeared in the NBA finals as a player, but he was the Player Development Consultant with the Golden State Warriors from the 2015-16 season to the 2019-20 season, where he won the 2017 and 2018 NBA finals with the Warriors and worked with Kevin Durant.  Nash has no coaching experience, but ESPN official Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Kevin Durant enjoyed working with Steve Nash, leading to media speculations that Steve Nash was hired to coach the Nets as a result of Durant’s power within the organization.  

“Brooklyn nets superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are teaming up this upcoming season, and the new coach of the Nets, Steve Nash, is a former two time MVP and one of the best point guards ever,” said sophomore Alex Almahmoud. “Durant and Irving are known to have big egos, and with Nash, I think he can keep them in their place and he can help them mesh well together. The Nets can be a playoff, and maybe even finals contender next season, but it all comes down to if the stars on the team can produce, and most importantly, stay healthy.”

Kyrie Irving has been known as a “locker room head case” everywhere he’s been.  

“I don’t really see us having a “head” coach.  KD could be a head coach, I could be a head coach some days,” said Irving. 

This was after the Nets signed Steve Nash, which shows disrespect and sets a bad example for the younger players on the team.  Remarkably, every team he has played for has succeeded once he leaves the team.  

He has elite handles, is one of the best finishers in the paint, and shoots 40% from three-point range, averaging about 25 points a game, yet the Celtics and Cavaliers, his two prior teams, have done just as well, if not better, without him.  His technical skills are incredible, but they are futile as he does not always intelligently apply them on the court.  The Cavaliers traded him to the Celtics in 2017, and the following season they reached the finals, even though his supposed replacement was injured most of the year.  When he was on the Celtics, his team had a losing record in the regular season until he got injured.  While Irving was forced to sit out for the playoffs, the Celtics went to the Eatsern Conference Finals.  In his first year in Brooklyn, the Nets were losing many games until he was injured again, and his team built more chemistry without him, similar to the situation in Boston.  Without Irving, both the Nets and Celtics started to win and become more competitive teams.  Steve Nash is going to have to work with Kyrie Irving to apply his skill-set better and be a better leader in the locker room.  Nash is also going to have to make sure that Durant and Irving bond well together on and off the court.  Durant was injured all of last year with a torn Achilles tendon, so this is the first year that Irving and Durant will play together.  

“I come in here grateful for the group we have,” said Nash showing that he wants Durant and Irving on the team, and is excited to work with them and the surrounding players.  

 If Nash is successful, the Nets have a fairly good chance at winning the NBA title in the 2020-21 season.  However, with no coaching experience, it is unknown whether or not Nash will pull the team together.  

These new coaches will have a big impact on the NBA, if it works out as the Knicks and Nets hope it will.  Recently, New York basketball has been mediocre, but hopefully these coaching changes will turn the tide.  Tom Thibodeau and Steve Nash are in vastly different situations, one trying to rebuild a team, and the other trying to take the team over the top and win a championship.  However, they both have high expectations to fulfill.