On Apr. 22, it was announced by the NBA that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich won his third Coach of the Year award. Popovich led the Spurs to a league-best 62-20 record, and accomplished most of those wins in the rugged Western Conference. However, he wasn’t the best coach in the league during the 2013-14 season. That honor goes to Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Granted, Thibodeau’s Bulls only won 48 games during the regular season, but he also had to coach with a lot less than Popovich. He watched as his best player Derrick Rose went down for a second consecutive year only 10 games into the season to a torn meniscus. Several weeks later, his leading scorer Luol Deng was traded for salary cap purposes to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, throughout all of the adversity, Thibodeau was able to lead his team to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls also have the best record in the east since Jan. 1. The Bulls are 36-16 since the new calendar year, and have done so mostly under Thibodeau’s defensive schemes. Chicago is ranked first in the league in opponents points against at 91.8, a glaring sign that the Bulls are the best defensive team in the NBA. Their suffocating defense has even embarrassed high-scoring teams such as the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors.
But what makes Thibodeau the more deserving coach of the year is the fact that he gets the most out of players. He has transformed Joakim Noah from just a high-energy player to the league’s DPOY. Noah averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds and five assists during the regular season — all career highs.
He also utilizes Noah as an offensive playmaking weapon. Since being playing under Thibodeau, Noah has played at the elbow, which allows his to find open cutters or shooters with his remarkable passing abilities.
Thibodeau has also resurrected the career of D.J. Augustin this season. Augustin, who was outright released by the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 9, became the Bulls’ leading scorer at nearly 16 points per game. Thibodeau also turned Bulls backup forward Taj Gibson into one of the league’s top sixth men over the course of the season. Gibson averaged 13 points and six rebounds despite backing up All-Star Noah and veteran Carlos Boozer.
Popovich had another spectacular regular season with the Spurs, but given what the Bulls had to endure during the season, Thibodeau was more deserving of the Coach of the Year award.