Coach of the Year may come down to whether you’re old school or new school this year.
The expected favorite for the award is Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, who has brought Chicago around to what may be the best win-total improvement, seed improvement, and clearly defensive improvement in the league this year, in only his first season with the Bulls. Thibodeau has helped Derrick Rose reach an MVP level (mostly bey admittedly staying out of the way and letting Rose do his thing), and made a defensive juggernaut out of a team featuring Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Kyle Korver, and Keith Bogans.
But his biggest competitor has the best advantage he can have. A superior record. Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs is gaining more and more traction for his performance in leading the Spurs to a ridiculous 54-12 record. You can count Rockets coach Rick Adelman among those who think Pop’s done the job this year.
“I think Pop’s just done a great job this year,” Adelman said. “To me, the record they have, he’s the Coach of the Year, the way he’s put these guys together and the type of season they’ve had.
The award may end up coming down to whether Thibodeau’s Bulls manage to hold onto the top spot in the East which they now share a piece of after Saturday’s win over the Jazz. If they secure the top spot in the East after being an 8th seed speed bump last year, with a group of new pieces, that may be enough to win. But if the Spurs keep pace, voting against Popovich will be extremely difficult.
Thibodeau does have one other advantage. He’s coaching a team with significant roster changes, featuring three new starters from last season, guys who are playing together for the first time. Much of the bench unit has changed as well with Korver, Ronnie Brewer, and Omer Asik. Getting new guys to play this well together is extremely tough.
Just ask Erik Spoelstra.