OAKLAND, Calif - Longtime NBA guard Steve Kerr played all those games for Chicago against rival New York with a Knicks assistant coach named Tom Thibodeau working the sidelines, but the two men didn’t really know each other until Kerr tried to hire him a decade ago.
Kerr was Phoenix’s general manager at the time and Thibodeau was a free-agent defensive expert whom Kerr just might have envisioned as the yin to offensive-minded Suns coach Mike D’Antoni’s yang.
“I didn’t know who Thibs was when he was an assistant with the Knicks,” said Kerr, now coach of 63-14 Golden State, winner of 12 consecutive games after Tuesday night’s win over Thibodeau and the Wolves. “But now when I see those Classic Sports games, like the Bulls-Knicks games I played in, you look at the sidelines and there he is next to [Knicks coach Jeff] Van Gundy. My biggest memory of him is when I tried to hire him when I was in Phoenix. It just didn’t work out.”
Thing is, other teams pursued an assistant who already had been in the league for two decades by then as well. Boston and coach Doc Rivers convinced Thibodeau to come there to coach Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in their first year there together after Van Gundy’s staff was fired in Houston in 2007.
“He had just gotten the job there, we talked, I went out to visit,” Thibodeau said. “It almost happened.”
As the Celtics’ associate head coach, Thibodeau won an NBA title and coached in another NBA Finals in his three years in Boston. Kerr played for championship teams in Chicago and San Antonio, managed the Suns and did television work before he took the Golden State coaching job and led a Warriors team that already had won 50 games to a championship and regular-season greatness, too.
“He has been great here,” Thibodeau said before Tuesday’s game. “He has done an unbelievable job. He has a great perspective on the league. He can look at it from many different angles, being a former player, being a GM, being a coach, being a broadcaster. I think he can see it from all sides.”
Masters of own sport
Wolves backup center Cole Aldrich is a summertime recreational player and a golf fan who watches the Masters, which begins Thursday, every year.
He’s also pals with PGA Tour player Gary Woodland, who shares ties with Aldrich to Kansas University. The two have played golf together.
“The deal was, we’d go play golf and then we’d always go back to the [Allen] Fieldhouse and play basketball,” Aldrich said. “He was an all-state basketball player in the state of Kansas, but I had to get him back at kicking my butt on the golf course.”
Just dunk it
Karl-Anthony Towns provided the punctuation on Monday’s home victory over Portland when he turned a Gorgui Dieng pass into a springy dunk that pushed the Blazers away with 35 seconds left, just after Damian Lillard’s three-point shot had pulled them within a basket.
“I just wanted to make sure I did everything possible to help us get a win,” Towns said. “I knew a layup wouldn’t do at that moment. You’ve got to make sure you get it in. … I’m just glad I [had] enough legs to go up there and dunk it.”