Tom Thibodeau visited Golden State’s new practice compound in February. The Warriors had just traded for Minnesota’s young enigma Andrew Wiggins.
Considering Thibodeau was fired by the Timberwolves a year before, allegedly for not relating well to the Wolves’ young prospects such as Wiggins, he would seem to be the last person to offer Warriors coach Steve Kerr advice on how to coach the 2014 No. 1 pick.
Au contraire. Wiggins already told Kerr he loved playing for Thibodeau, disrupting a narrative that has partly smeared his otherwise sterling reputation.
“We had just traded for Andrew Wiggins and he was really helpful,’’ Kerr told The Post in a phone interview Saturday from his home in San Diego. “I had a long conversation with [Thibodeau] about Andrew. He gave me some good advice on ways to connect with Andrew, how much he enjoyed coaching him and why. We’ve gotten to know each other over the years. [Thibodeau has] been very helpful to us.”
During his unemployment, the new Knicks coach visited several clubs this season to be close to the game. The Warriors always have been a favorite pit stop, partly because of his friendship with his former Bulls assistant Ron Adams, now an assistant with Golden State. Before Thibs took the Minnesota job after being fired by Chicago, Thibodeau visited the Warriors before their 2016 Finals run.
“He showed some X’s and O’s and went over some actions they ran for [Wiggins],” Kerr recalled. “Some of the things they were trying to do. The thing with Tom is he’s a workaholic, loves the X’s and O’s, loves breaking down film and takes great joy in it. Our staff values his opinion.’’
“What is apparent is he and Andrew had a great relationship and Andrew said that as well. I know Andrew told me he really enjoyed playing for him and appreciated his commitment. When a coach knows his stuff and gets along with his players, he’s got a great chance to succeed. I think Tom’s got a great shot.’
That Thibodeau has worked with Knicks president Leon Rose when he ran Creative Artists Agency is Kerr’s reason for optimism.
“What’s intriguing is the Tom-Leon connection,’’ Kerr said. “That’s a crucial dynamic. If those guys work well together — every indication would seem they would — and they function well with ownership, now you got a chance. A chance for patience and stability.’’
Kerr qualified his appraisal on whether Thibodeau can turn around James Dolan’s Knicks, who have been out of the playoffs seven straight years despite an owner willing to pour countless dollars into reversing the decay.
In 2014, Kerr verbally accepted a Knicks offer to be head coach under then-president Phil Jackson, his former coach. Kerr backed out of the agreement when the Warriors swooped in and swept Kerr off his feet. Sources contend Kerr had an uneasy feeling about the organization after polling several insiders about their thoughts working for Dolan’s team.
“Ultimately the reason I left, it was pretty clear which roster was the superior one,’’ said Kerr, who took the Warriors to five straight Finals appearances and three titles. “Along with the geography being from California, it was an easy decision for me and the right one. The last six years as a coach have only confirmed what I already knew — as a coach you depend on your talent. Every coach will tell you that.’’
Kerr’s reference was the Warriors’ steep collapse this season when most of their key players were injured, including Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Kerr said Thibodeau needs a roster upgrade and a cohesive front office.
“It’s also about synergy in the organization and creating momentum with the relationships within,’’ Kerr said. “The best organizations are the ones that can foster that and handle the adversity. I’m lucky we had the worst record in the league this year. I’m not naive. If we do that a couple more years, I might get fired. But we had great synergy and communications with [GM] Bob Myers and ownership. That’s what it takes.
“No doubt Tom knows his stuff. He works his ass off. He’s had success in this league and a lot of respect from his peers. And he knows what he’s doing. He could be a great hire. But there’s always a lot of things that go into it. They got to put those pieces together. It’s never easy. You got to build the roster and continuity.”
Kerr said he does not look forward to facing a Thibodeau-coached Knicks team in 2020-21.
“You know he’s done all the homework and will know all your plays,’’ Kerr said. “Every coach has an assistant in charge of the main scouting report for different teams. A lot of times you call a play and the head coach asks the assistant what’s coming and the assistant will yell it out. Tom yells it out himself. He does everything. He doesn’t leave any stone unturned.”