Tom Thibodeau was an assistant coach with the Knicks during Charles Oakley’s final two seasons in New York. This was 25 years ago. The NBA was a much different place.
“Players wasn’t as hard (to coach),” Oakley said this week. “I think we took it in and let the coaches coach, and we played the game…Now, it’s harder to coach than ever.”
As Oakley watched Thibodeau coach the Knicks to the playoffs last season, he was impressed by how well Thibodeau adapted to today’s NBA.
“I’m gonna give him a lot of credit for adjusting to today’s players,” Oakley said in a phone interview to promote his new show, “Chopping It Up With Oakley”, which debuts on the FOX Soul streaming service Oct. 7 and is produced in partnership with The For Us By Us Network. “It’s different league for players. And that’s the most important thing for any coach these days; you’ve got to adjust to the guys but you got to hold them accountable. You just can’t let them have everything. You got to have a game plan.”
Thibodeau’s game plan worked well last season; the Knicks surprised the NBA by finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference and winning 44 games.
Before he was hired, Thibodeau was criticized by others in coaching circles for an inability to coach today’s players. Those criticisms, it seems, were off. Knicks players last season credited Thibodeau for communicating well with them.
Thibodeau acknowledged earlier this week that the dynamic between NBA players and coaches has shifted significantly since his days as a Knicks assistant.
“I think how you connect (with players) is different than it was back then,” Thibodeau said last week. “So you have to adapt. But I think (you also understand that) the same things go into winning. It’s discipline. It’s hard work. It’s unselfishness, it’s the commitment to each other.
“How you deliver the message is important. I think you always have to be aware of that,” Thibodeau added. “There’s probably a little more sensitivity now than there was then. So you have a lot more individual meetings. I think with individual meetings, being honest and truthful is the most important thing. It’s the only way to build trust.
“That’s a big part of it. The challenge is to get the best out of everyone, for all of us. We talk about it all the time, we don’t want the leadership to fall on one or two people. We want it to be a team of leaders and that’s what we strive to build within the team.”
Oakley, one of the leaders of the great 1990s Knicks teams, remembers Thibodeau as a diligent worker who was valued by the players.
“I think Thibodeau worked hard, guys listened to him,” says Oakley, who will cook for some of his celebrity friends on Chopping It Up With Oakley. “Players judge you as they see you go. You don’t have to be friendly with all the guys. Just show them that you know what you’re doing, know your craft.
“I think this day and age, it’s just a different environment. Players are just different. They’re coming from college one year, can’t really play (in the NBA). (They) don’t want you to say nothing to them. The agent’s calling (and saying) ‘Why are you talking to my player like that?’ There’s a lot of that stuff within the game now. Coaching is harder than ever.”
Oakley answered a few other questions from SNY last week. Here they are:
Q: Sean Marks was your teammate in New York. What do you remember about him as a teammate and what are your thoughts on his path to GM?
A: “Smart guy. One of the European guys that came in when the game was a little tougher. So he got to experience a tougher league. And he came to Brooklyn, he brought that team up to .500 in two years and last year they made the two big moves and then they got James Harden. They’re doing something right because players want to come there.”
Q: Are there any forwards in today’s game that you like watching?
A: “I love (Anthony Davis’) game. I love (John) Collins ’ game in Atlanta. And I love Michael Porter Jr. in Denver.
“I like what they do. They tend to drift on the three-point line. But that’s what the coach wants them to do. But I like the energy, especially Collins.”
Q: WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM CHOPPING IT UP WITH OAKLEY?
OAKLEY: “Celebrities contact us and we feed them. We have a great host. It’s a team like you’ve never seen before. African American team; what they’re doing, how they’re doing it. It’s our time in life. We’re ready to shine. “
Q: I READ THAT YOU CAN COOK ANYTHING WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS IN 15 MINUTES. WHAT ABOUT TUNA CASEROLE?
A: “Yeah, that don’t take long. Get your flower, get your egg, get your seasoning, get your bread crumbs and go with it. Easy.”
Source: Yahoo Sports