Q&A: Tom Thibodeau

A: President Obama, who I got to know a little bit when I was in Chicago. Just the way he spoke, the things he did, and his honesty, his messaging, bringing people together. … Put Coach [Bill] Belichick up there. [Manager Tony] La Russa, Pat Riley, and I have to put Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] in that group as well.

Q: What won’t you tolerate?

A: Anything that takes away from winning. And the second thing is tardiness. I don’t have a lot of rules, but that’s one thing that bothers me.

Q: What are your favorite motivational or inspirational sayings?

A: My guys in Chicago and Minnesota would have probably told you: “Magic is in the work.” I really believe that. There’s no shortcuts to winning. You have to be willing to pay the price and be willing to sacrifice. There’s no magic in it. The real magic is in doing it every day to the best of your ability, and the steps will be incremental.

Q: What criticism has either bothered you the most or you thought was the most unfair?

A: That’s a good question (smile). I’ve had a number of great mentors, and having worked with Jeff [Van Gundy] in New York, and watching all the things that he went through and the way he handled all that stuff was really good for me. I think it helped prepare me for ultimately when I became a head coach. He always used to say this: “Whether it be praise or criticism, treat it the same. It really doesn’t matter.” The only thing that matters is what I think. Only I know whether I put everything I had into something. We all really only answer to ourselves.

Q: What qualities excite you about team president Leon Rose?

A: Leadership, smart, tough, driven, very pragmatic. Great listener. Even-keeled, he’s not gonna overreact to things, and he won’t underreact to things.

Q: When did you first become aware of World Wide Wes — William Wesley, the new executive vice president for the Knicks?

A: (Laugh) The first time I met him, I was an assistant coach in Philadelphia, and I was at an Eagles game and I was sitting in a box with Mo Cheeks. And Wes was up there. And they were playing the Cowboys. So Wes says, “The first half I’m gonna go down on the Cowboys sideline, (laugh).” He goes down on the Cowboys sideline and he’s standing next to Jerry Jones, and I’m like, “Who is this guy?” And then he goes, “I’m gonna go down on the Eagles sideline the second half (laugh).” I’m like, “No way.” Ultimately we became really good friends. I’d bump into him occasionally in Philly, and then when Leon became an agent and then when he went to CAA, Wes went with him.

Q: Is there anybody Wes doesn’t know in the world of sports?

A: There’s only one World Wide Wes. He knows everyone. Across many different sports.

Q: How did you learn about the Kobe Bryant tragedy?

A: Someone had texted me, and it was disbelief. I still don’t want to believe it. The irony is probably about a week before, 10 days before, he had texted me, we were talking about the team he was coaching with his daughter’s team. I had been going out to L.A. quite a bit to spend time with Doc [Rivers], and he asked me when I was coming out again, we were gonna get together. Really sad. I watched his whole career. Just such an incredible person. He would have continued on to go great things in whatever he touched, because that’s just the way he was wired. It’s sad that he’s not here.

Q: Have you lost anybody because of the virus?

A: I haven’t, although Karl-Anthony Towns’ mom [Jacqueline died in April] … really sad. This is an awful thing, at any time it can strike. You think somebody’s healthy, and the next thing you know, they’re gone. You feel for those people. Karl’s dad is a wonderful guy, it was a very very close-knit family, so they’re in my thoughts and prayers all the time.

Q: How do you deal with stress during the season?

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