Derrick Rose has been around Tom Thibodeau for significant chunks of his NBA career, teaming up in previous stops in Chicago and Minnesota before reuniting again this month with the Knicks.
Rose contends Thibodeau appears to be having more fun in his first season with the improving Knicks than the former league MVP can recall from his past experience with the reputedly intense hoops coach.
“I mean, in Chicago, that was his first time having a team. So that was different,” Rose said Monday. “But in Minny, you could see that he was catching up with just the new league. There’s kids that are in the league now. They’re young. They’re trying to figure themselves out.
“And Thibs has more patience [now] than anything. Just being here, appreciating the situation, appreciating him a lot more, it’s a blessing to be here. But you can tell that he’s just a totally different person now. He’s smiling. I’ve never seen him smile as much as he has right now. So it rubs off on me. I’m feeling his energy.”
The surging Knicks (14-15) will look to complete their first four-game winning streak of the season Wednesday in Orlando, Fla., where a win also would move their record to .500 through 30 games after finishing last season with a 21-45 mark under David Fizdale and Mike Miller.
Thibodeau laughed Monday when Rose’s quote about smiling more was relayed to him, but he didn’t deny it, either.
“When you get a team that’s committed to playing for each other and doing the right things, I also want us to enjoy it,” Thibodeau said. “But the work component is important and sacrificing for each other is important. When those things happen, it’s enjoyable. It’s a great group to be around every day.”
Julius Randle, who made yet another push for All-Star consideration with 44 points in Monday’s home win over Atlanta, said something similar about Thibodeau in an appearance before the game on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN radio.
Randle laughed for several seconds when he was asked about Thibodeau often giving the impression that he’s “never happy about anything.”
“Oh man, he’s honestly, he’ll probably kill me for saying this, but he’s soft inside, man. He’s not all hard like the persona,” Randle said. “He’s definitely a beast. He’s gonna coach you hard, he’s gonna be tough on you.
“But honestly, man, the process, we’re all enjoying it. We’re having fun with the process. We are liking being coached. Obviously, when you see the results of things and how things are working out and how we’re getting better as a team, you’ve got to have fun with the process. And we’re enjoying it.”
Randle added that Thibodeau’s “attention to detail is unbelievable,” especially at the defensive end of the floor. He also called his coach “a complete culture-changer, for sure.”
“All of us, when I talked to the guys in the summer and guys in the front office, that was my thing. I wanted somebody to come in and coach us hard, to hold everybody accountable,” Randle said. “That’s exactly what Thibs has done.”
The 32-year-old Rose added that rejoining Thibodeau in New York was his priority in wanting to get out of Detroit, where he started the season. Pistons coach Dwane Casey had said last week that he believed Rose wanted out simply because the team wasn’t committed to winning.
“No, it wasn’t that. I just wanted to play for Thibs, pretty much,” Rose said. “I had a conversation with [Casey], and he brought up New York. And I was just praying that the deal actually got done.”