Tom Thibodeau has known Rick Pitino for decades and endorses his blockbuster hiring as St. John’s new men’s basketball coach.
“Just really, really happy for him. I think he’s been a great coach wherever he’s been,” Thibodeau said before the Knicks’ 140-134 loss to the Timberwolves Monday night at the Garden. “He’s been through a lot. When I was a young coach, I used to go watch his practices at Providence.
“So he’s a good man, great coach, and I know he’ll do a great job at St. John’s.”
The 70-year-old Pitino was hired by the Red Storm on Monday after three seasons — and two NCAA Tournament berths — at Iona.
Thibodeau was an assistant coach at Harvard from 1985-89, while Pitino was at Providence from 1985-87.
Pitino was named Knicks coach after leading the Friars to the 1987 Final Four, before returning to the college ranks at Kentucky two years later.
Thibodeau believes Jalen Brunson, who finished with 23 points and 10 assists, should be a candidate for the league’s Most Improved Player award, which Julius Randle (57 points, four rebounds) won in 2020-21.
Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen and Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are considered the favorites for the prize.
“I just think that you look at what he’s done. And I think the important thing is the impact on winning, for all our players,” Thibodeau said of Brunson, who went 9-for-18 from the field and had two turnovers. “And I think when you win, the by-product of winning is people get recognized. So I’m hopeful that he does get recognized, but I don’t want it to get lost.
“We have a number of guys that hopefully will be up for things, just don’t lose sight, don’t get sidetracked. [But] it’s the impact he’s had on the team … you can’t say enough of what he’s meant to our team just from a leadership standpoint.”
Karl-Anthony Towns (strained right calf) and Anthony Edwards (right ankle sprain) were out for the Timberwolves.
Rudy Gobert (left ankle sprain) was available after being listed as questionable.