NY Post: Knicks hire Kentucky’s Kenny Payne as first addition to Tom Thibodeau’s staff

From Brian Lewis:

The Knicks confirmed Kenny Payne as the first addition to Tom Thibodeau’s new coaching staff, prying away John Calipari’s longtime right-hand man and bringing him from Kentucky to the Garden.

“I’m thrilled that Kenny has joined my staff as an assistant coach. He has an outstanding ability to forge relationships with players and improve their skills,” Thibodeau said in a statement. “He knows what it takes to win and has learned from one of the best coaches there is in John Calipari. Kenny will be a tremendous addition to our organization.”

Payne had spent the past decade working under – and winning with – Calipari, promoted to associate head coach in 2014 and helping the Wildcats to the first 38-0 season in college basketball history just a year later.

But the 53-year-old also has longstanding relationships with not only Knicks president Leon Rose, but senior vice president William Wesley.

Rose had been Calipari’s agent at CAA, where Wesley also worked. And Payne’s ties with “World Wide Wes” stretch back decades, all the way to his days playing for Louisville.

This is a fair enough move. Payne’s a well regarded coach. Hard to worry too much about the assistant coaches on the teams. Let’s just get to the lottery!

Kentucky Herald Leader: UK or Knicks for Payne? ‘It’s hard to even fathom leaving Kentucky,’ he says.

From Jerry Tipton at the Kentucky Herald Leader:

Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne acknowledged Saturday that the New York Knicks have expressed an interest in hiring him as an assistant coach.

“All I can say is it’s not an easy decision,” he said of the UK-or-Knicks basketball crossroads he might face. “And, hopefully, it gets resolved one way or the other here soon.”

Jeff Goodman of The Stadium reported on Twitter that Payne was considering an offer to join the Knicks, who recently hired Tom Thibodeau as the new head coach. The Knicks are also considering hiring a former player, Mike Woodson, as an assistant coach.

“They reached out to Coach Cal (John Calipari) for permission to talk to me,” Payne said of the Knicks. “That’s the most I can say.”

The Knicks have also spoken to his agent, Payne said.

“But I have a great job for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “And all I can tell you is that I’ve been blessed to be able to be in a position to help a lot of people. It’s more than just basketball with me when you’re in a position to help families.”

It’s nice to see the Knicks thinking outside of the box like this.

In other news, Kemba Walker did an interview where he said that, at one point, the Knicks were a priority for him, back when he thought “another player” (obviously Kevin Durant) was coming to New York. That Durant injury sure did throw a proverbial monkey wrench into the Knicks’ plans.

SNY.com: Sources: Knicks and Nets have done background work on potential trade target Zach LaVine

This story is actually older than the most recent Thibs hiring story, but all the other new stories are either hagiographies about how great the Thibs hire was or hit pieces about how bad the Thibs hire was, and I think we’ve already exhausted our debates about Thibs before COVID-19 even hit, let alone now, so I didn’t feel like posting any of those articles. So how about a “Should the Knicks trade for Player X?” article. Those are sometimes fun.

From the great Ian Begley:

Before Leon Rose took over as Knicks president, he was a top player agent at CAA. Because of Rose’s past role, there’s been plenty of speculation about the Knicks trading for a player with CAA ties.

The New York Post reported earlier this month that Suns star Devin Booker was the player to “watch out for most” as a potential trade target among Rose’s former clients.

Following Donovan Mitchell’s public frustration with teammate Rudy Gobert, there was fan/media speculation about Mitchell, a CAA client, getting traded to New York. But there are plenty of factors that suggest that neither Miller nor Booker will be traded anytime soon.

Mitchell is eligible for a max contract extension from the Utah Jazz this summer and would be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021. Booker has four years remaining on his current deal in Phoenix.

Usually, a team doesn’t even consider trading a young star player until he gets close to free agency.

So if we’re speculating about potential trades, it’s more realistic to look at top players who are approaching free agency.

The 2021 free agency class is formidable. If you include players with player options for either 2020 or 2021, the list of free agents next summer (or fall) includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Victor Oladipo. The potential free agent class of 2022 is strong, too. Players who could be free agents that summer include Paul George, Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon and Jrue Holiday.

We bring that up because those players are more likely to be traded than a player like Mitchell or Booker. And it’s worth noting that both the Knicks and the Nets are among the teams who have been monitoring LaVine’s situation in Chicago. Per SNY sources, both teams have done background work on LaVine to be prepared for the possibility that Chicago ends up listening to trade offers on the 25-year-old guard.

LaVine averaged 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals last season for the Bulls. He hit 38 percent of his 3-point attempts and 49.7 percent of his two-point attempts.

It’s fair to say that the Bulls, who have a new team president in Arturas Karsinovas, have yet to find a long-term solution on the coaching sidelines nor have they been successful in surrounding LaVine with talent in recent years. If that instability continues, would LaVine look to leave Chicago when he hits free agency? If so, the Bulls would probably be open to trading him instead of losing him for nothing.

This is what teams like the Knicks and Nets are keeping an eye on with LaVine and the Bulls. Beal and the Wizards, to a certain extent, fit the same profile. With regard to New York and Brooklyn, both teams have the assets to swing a trade for a young, talented player like LaVine.

The Knicks have seven first-round picks over the next four drafts and some young players who are attractive to opposing teams. The Nets have young players on team-friendly contracts (Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen among them) and are believed to be in the market to trade for a top player to play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The New York Daily New previously reported that the Nets had internal discussions about Beal, a player who can test free agency as early as 2022. You can add LaVine to the list of players that they are monitoring.

It will be interesting to see how both New York teams approach the trade market in the coming months. Similar to free agency in 2019 – when the Nets signed Durant and Irving — they may find themselves competing for the same players.

No thanks on Lavine, but I’ll give Beal this much. He’s one of those guys who you could at least flip for good players if you ever did trade for him. In other words, he’s the type of player that every team could use. Because of that, he would cost too much for it to make sense for the Knicks (especially since they could just sign him in 2022), but I just want to note that there is a huge difference between Bradley Beal and Lavine. Studs like Beal are never going to be like Julius Randle where you acquire them and then it’s like, “Oh, I guess people didn’t actually want this guy, huh?”

Our Short Jason Kidd Nightmare Is Over: Tom Thibodeau To Be Knicks Head Coach

From the no-longer-suspended Woj at ESPN:

The New York Knicks and Tom Thibodeau are finalizing a five-year deal to make him the franchise’s next head coach, sources tell ESPN.

Knicks president Leon Rose and agent Spencer Breecker of CAA Sports were working Saturday to complete contractual terms, and a signed agreement is expected in the near future, sources said.

There’s a popular children’s book by Louis Sachar called Sideways Stories from Wayside School, about a bizarre school and the odd students who go there. One of the earliest chapters tells the story of Joe, a kid who seemingly doesn’t know how to count, but ultimately always arrives at the correct answer in the end. Like the teacher puts down eight potatoes and asks Joe to count them and he replies, “Seven, five, three, one, two, four, six, eight. There are eight potatoes, Mrs. Jewls.”

I was reminded of that story during the Knicks’ offbeat process that led to them ending up with the coach we all knew they were going to hire if they could back in March. We got to the eighth potato somehow, even if it was all over the place getting there.

I still think Atkinson was the preferable choice, but Thibs is, at worst, a competent coach, which is a big step up from most of the recent Knick coaches. And, more importantly, he isn’t Jason Kidd, so this is fine news.

It’d be funny if the rumor that Alan mentioned the other day about the Knicks waiting for Woj to get off suspension so he could break it was true.

Jason Kidd now a frontrunner for Knicks coach as search turns messy: source

From Stefan Bondy:

The Knicks coaching search has turned messy with Jason Kidd emerging as a frontrunner after contract negotiations with Tom Thibodeau stalled, a plugged-in NBA source told the Daily News.

Kidd, an unquestioned Hall of Fame player, is viewed by the Knicks as a conduit to attracting free agents, but there are also people in the organization who are skeptical of his coaching ability following underwhelming stints in Brooklyn and Milwaukee. As a result, the Kidd hire would come with the caveat of the front office picking at least some of his assistant coaches.

“It’s basically to save Kidd from himself,” the source said.

Thibodeau has long been considered top choice but a source said James Dolan has thus far been unwilling to agree to his contract requests. It’s still possible the sides reach an agreement, but it would require a concession. Given the reservations about Kidd — who has a history of short stays and ugly breakups — retaining interim coach Mike Miller is another possibility if Thibodeau doesn’t re-emerge.

Miller went 17-27 last season after taking over for David Fizdale, impressing team president Leon Rose along the way.

According to a source, potential handpicked assistant coaching candidates for Kidd include Kenny Payne, Rod Strickland and Mike Woodson — all who have close ties to Knicks executive William Wesley.

Well, that all sounds perfectly awful.

Now I have to root big time for Thibs to get the job.

This team, this fucking team.

SNY.com: Sources: Knicks have not made contract offer to any head coaching candidates

From Ian Begley:

An update on where things stand with the Knicks coaching search: per league sources familiar with the matter, New York is not in contract negotiations with any candidate and has not made a contract offer to any of the candidates it has interviewed.

The Knicks are continuing to do their due diligence and there is a strong likelihood that they will have conversations with multiple candidates next week, per SNY league sources.

It remains likely that the club will hire a coach by the end of the month, prior to the NBA resuming its regular season in Orlando.

“They’re still exploring their options,” a league source familiar with the Knicks’ process told SNY.

Agents and coaches with a vested interest in the Knicks’ search have long believed that Tom Thibodeau is the coach most likely to be hired by Knicks president Leon Rose. The Knicks have interviewed 11 candidates for the job. All candidates are believed to have interviewed twice over Zoom calls.

Sports Illustrated reported that Kenny Atkinson interviewed with the club on Monday. That was believed to be Atkinson’s second interview.

The idea that the Knicks haven’t made a contract offer to any candidate suggests that Thibodeau’s hire isn’t as much of a foregone conclusion as the coaches and agents referenced above thought. That they may be talking to candidates again next week also tells you the Knicks haven’t fully settled on Thibodeau.

This team is so weird.

None of this makes any sense.

If Thibs is, indeed, the automatic choice, how do you not even offer him a contract? If Thibs is not the choice, then why is it taking so long to offer one of these other dudes a contract? How can they possibly not know who they want to coach the team after multiple interviews with multiple candidates?

NY Post: Tom Thibodeau doing deep dive into Knicks as coach decision looms

From Marc Berman:

While five of the Knicks’ 11 coaching candidates are in the Orlando bubble game-planning for the NBA restart, others such as Tom Thibodeau are waiting on Knicks president Leon Rose’s decision a different way.

Thibodeau, considered the leading candidate, is passing away the time poring over Knicks game film as he awaits a possible job offer, according to an NBA source.

It is characteristic of Thibodeau, known for having his teams as well-prepared as any coach.

It’s known one of the things that most intrigues Thibodeau about coaching the Knicks roster is molding young shot-blocking center Mitchell Robinson into an even better defensive player.

A decision probably will come next week as interviews have been completed, but owner James Dolan still must be consulted and sign off on it. It has been six weeks — and countless hours of interviews — since the Knicks began the search.

Thibodeau’s second interview lasted three hours as did those of many others. That’s plenty of time to talk philosophy — as the 62-year-old did on a recent podcast hosted by ex-Bull and current player agent B.J. Armstrong.

How weird is this story? So, the dude’s studying Knick game tape? What the what? How is he not the coach then? And with so many good coaching gigs either definitely available this offseason or very possibly available, why in the world would he want the Knicks job so badly?

But if the guy is studying Knick game tape, then I would imagine that he wants this job for some reason. It’s so darn weird.

But whatever, I can live with Thibs. He’s no Jason Kidd.

And hey, if famed coaching expert, BJ Armstrong, recommends him, then he must be good, right (seriously, how hard up are you for a story when it’s “Hey, what does BJ Armstrong think about the Knicks coaching options?”?).