New York Knicks center Joakim Noah wandered down the hall at Target Center, stuck his head into the Timberwolves locker room and asked, “Where’s the boss?’’
Moments later he and Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau were hugging.
Noah and Knicks guard Derrick Rose were in Chicago with Thibodeau when the Bulls made five straight trips to the playoffs, including a run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011. And while both players got firsthand looks at Thibodeau’s intensity — Noah joked about how he often butted heads with his coach — both spoke warmly of their time together.
“Our run in Chicago is something I’ll never forget,’’ said Noah, who went to two All-Star Games and was named defensive player of the year while playing for Thibodeau. “It was some of the best times of my life. So I got a lot of love for Thibs.’’
And Thibodeau’s reputation for being demanding?
“You have to be demanding,” Noah said. “It’s hard to win in this league. Sometimes, with Thibs, we’d butt heads. But you don’t’ realize what you have with him until he’s not around.’’
Thibodeau often told Noah that would be the case. Turns out he was right. Rose, though, said he never heard Thibodeau say that to him.
“With me, it was more cursing me out,’’ joked Rose, who was the league MVP in Thibodeau’s first season with the Bulls. “He’s probably calmed down now. In Chicago it was really intense. But he was detailed. He told you what to do on the floor. I thought [the Wolves’] record would be different this year. But it takes time getting used to one another, to new players, to a new coach. It’s still a long season.’’
The key in Chicago, according to Thibodeau, was building trust with players, a process he’s working on here.
“The only way you can build trust is through the truth,’’ he said. “I think players respect that.’’
Injuries — particularly to Rose — ultimately derailed Chicago’s title hopes and, in the end, Thibodeau’s time there. Rose was traded to the Knicks over the summer, and Noah signed with New York as a free agent. Rose, who struggled for years with knee injuries, is rounding back into form. Noah, too, has battled injuries.
Meanwhile the Wolves have struggled to start the season.
“He’s probably driving himself crazy,’’ Rose said. “A lot of late nights. But it all comes with trying to win. He’s a winner at heart. He wants to win every game.’’
Said Noah: “They’re a very young group with a lot — a lot — of talent. And they’ve got one of the best coaches in the business. The future is definitely bright over there.’’
Loving the Knicks
Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns grew up a huge Knicks fan. His dad, Karl Sr., was given a chance by the Knicks after coming out of Monmouth University.
“So that’s why I have a lot of loyalty to the Knicks,’’ he said. “That’s why I grew up a Knicks fan. Also a reason is that the only channel I could get was MSG [which televises Knicks games].’’
Noah, who turned his ankle in the Knicks’ game against Oklahoma City, did not play Wednesday. Brandon Rush (toe) was out for the Wolves.