Tom Thibodeau was voted the National Basketball Association Coach of the Year after leading the Chicago Bulls to a league-best 62-20 record, it’s best mark since Michael Jordan’s final season with the franchise in 1998.
Thibodeau, 53, is the seventh first-year coach to win the Red Auerbach Trophy and the fourth Bulls coach to claim the award. The last was Phil Jackson in 1996, when the Bulls went on to win the NBA Finals for a fourth time in six years. The other Chicago winners were Johnny Kerr in 1967 and Dick Motta four years later.
“This is a well deserved honor,” Bulls General Manager Gar Forman said in a statement on the team’s website today. “He’s a terrific teacher, motivator, tactician and communicator. His work ethic, passion for the game and for our players is appreciated.”
Thibodeau totaled 475 points, including 76 first-place votes, from a panel of 119 sportswriters and broadcasters in the U.S. and Canada. Doug Collins of the Philadelphia 76ers was second, with 210 points, followed by Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, with 177.
Thibodeau built a reputation as a defensive-minded coach during 18 years as an assistant with seven NBA teams prior to earning his first head coaching position in Chicago. When he took over the Bulls in June, he said improvements in rebounding and defense were keys to rebuilding the team.
The Bulls allowed 91.3 points per game this season, the second-fewest in the league and almost eight points less on average than they gave up last season. Chicago was also second in the NBA in rebounds, averaging 44.2 per game.
The Bulls added two-time All-Star Carlos Boozer during the offseason to team with third-year point guard Derrick Rose, who’s one of the leading contenders for the Most Valuable Player Award after averaging 25 points and 7.7 assists.
The Bulls had their fourth-best regular season in franchise history and the best since Jordan’s sixth and last championship season in Chicago in 1997-98.
This season’s 21-game improvement over last year was achieved even after Boozer missed 23 games because of injury and Joakim Noah, who averaged a team-leading 10.4 rebounds, sat out 34 games.
Thibodeau’s 62 wins matches the NBA record for a head coach is his first year set by Paul Westphal in 1992-93 with the Phoenix Suns. Thibodeau is the third rookie coach to enter the postseason with a No. 1 seeded team, joining Westphal and former Los Angeles Lakers coach Jerry West in 1976-77.
Thibodeau started in the NBA as an assistant with the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989. After stints with the Seattle SuperSonics, San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers, he spent seven years with the New York Knicks as an assistant to Jeff Van Gundy before following him to the Houston Rockets in 2003.
Thibodeau became an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics in 2007 and joined the Bulls in June 2010, a month after they fired Vinny Del Negro following consecutive 41-win seasons. Thibodeau signed a three-year, $10 million contract, according to the Chicago Tribune.
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