Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Knicks' Noah and Rose to Face Old Coach Twice

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Knicks' Noah and Rose to Face Old Coach Twice

Article excerpt

It was hard to take your eyes off Russell Westbrook on Monday night at Madison Square Garden as he lived up to every bit of the hype following him this season as he continued along his stat-filling season. But if you looked around you saw something else — and the Knicks saw it, too.

"We got manhandled," Joakim Noah said. "That's tough. Russ definitely puts a lot of pressure on the bigs when he's going downhill like that. At the end of the day it's always tough knowing that we lost the game on the glass."

"The way that we lost, it wasn't any grit, it wasn't any grind," Derrick Rose said. "We can't come out and play like that, period."

Those two voices, the ones who recognized it immediately, have learned those lessons through years of contending during their time with the Chicago Bulls. And they did it under the hard-driving tutelage of Tom Thibodeau. That relationship will meet on opposite sides Wednesday in Minnesota and again Friday at Madison Square Garden.

Any notion that the reunion could have happened in full never came close to happening as Thibodeau never even got a phone call from the Knicks when they were searching for a coach last summer. Phil Jackson had already fired Mike Woodson, the coach he'd inherited when he arrived as team president, and also dismissed Derek Fisher and his interim coach who finished last season, Kurt Rambis.

Jackson spoke of a need to hire someone who was part of his circle, who was simpatico with him. So Thibodeau, who was a longtime Knicks assistant before becoming a head coach and who people close to him have said would have loved the chance to coach in New York, took the job with the talented, but young, Timberwolves.

While the Knicks and the coach Jackson chose, Jeff Hornacek, try to fit the veteran roster together in New York, Thibodeau is struggling to get the Timberwolves on track. Minnesota is just 5-12, and while the roster boasts the last two rookies of the year in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns and regular highlight subject Zach LaVine, they are far from ready to win. …

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