By Doug Halberstadt
Last week, the Chicago Bulls were busy defeating the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, four games to one. This week, they are in an Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.
That’s largely because of the efforts of their head coach, Tom Thibodeau. His efforts have not only paid off for his team, but he has earned some recognition as well. Last Sunday (May 1), the NBA announced Thibodeau had been named the 2010-11 NBA Coach of the Year.
He joins three other Bulls head coaches who have earned that honor: Johnny “Red” Kerr (1967), Dick Motta (1971) and Phil Jackson (1996).
In his first season as the boss of the Bulls, and his first year as a head coach in the NBA, he guided Chicago to the best record in the NBA with a mark of 62-20 (.756). The Bulls posted the top home record in the league (36-5), and recorded their first winning road record since 1998, as they went 26-15 away from the United Center. Thibodeau’s 62 wins ties the NBA record for most wins by a first-year head coach in NBA history (Paul Westphal in 1993, Phoenix), and surpasses Jackson’s team record for most wins by a Bulls first-year head coach (55 victories in 1991).
He guided this year’s team to 21 more victories than the Bulls from a year ago. Some other highlights from Thibodeau’s Coach of the Year season are: a record of 21-2 to close out the regular season, the Bulls ranked first in opponent field goal percentage (.430), first in opponent 3-point field goal percentage (.326), first in opponent rebounds per game (38.4), first in rebound margin (plus-5.7), second in point differential (plus-7.3), second in opponent points per game (91.3), second in opponent assists per game (19.0), second in the NBA in rebounds per game (44.2) and fifth in blocks per game (5.71).
Thibodeau’s honor also landed him in another group of NBA elite. He becomes only the seventh coach to win the award in their first season. The others were Harry Gallatin (St. Louis, 1963), Kerr (Chicago, 1967), Mike Schuler (Portland, 1987), Larry Bird (Indiana, 1998), Doc Rivers (Orlando, 2000) and Rick Carlisle (Detroit, 2002).
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the May 4-10, 2011 issue