Tom Thibodeau named NBA Coach of the Year, Suns’ Williams comes in 2nd

Jun 7, 2021, 4:54 PM | Updated: 8:13 pm
New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau gestures during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets i...

New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau gestures during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in New York. (Sarah Stier/Pool Photo via AP)

(Sarah Stier/Pool Photo via AP)

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau was named the NBA Coach of the Year on Monday.

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams earned 45 first place votes — two more than Thibodeau — but finished second place in voting with a total of 340 points to Thibodau’s 351.

The 11-point difference between the first and second-place finishers is the smallest margin since the current NBA Coach of the Year voting format was introduced in the 2002-03 season, according to NBA Communications.

Utah’s Quin Snyder came in at No. 3 with 161 points.

The award is voted on by members of the NBA media.

“It’s a reflection of how hard Thibs works and how that team plays,” Williams said of Thibodeau’s win. “Those are really cool moments when you have one of your brothers that you’ve worked with get an achievement like that. It’s awesome.

“I haven’t been in communication with him yet, I’m so focused on our game tonight, but I’m happy for Thibs.”

Williams was projected to win the honor after he was awarded Coach of the Year by the NBCA for the turnaround he’s helped the Suns make.

Phoenix won its first Pacific Division title since 2007 this year and was one of four teams that finished the season in the top-10 of both offensive and defensive ratings.

Before Williams’ arrival, the franchise went four straight seasons without surpassing 25 wins in full 82-game schedules.

In a pandemic-interrupted 2019-20 season, Williams’ first in Phoenix, the Suns went 34-39 — and that came thanks to an 8-0 run in the Disney World bubble to finish the year.

Then came the increase to 51 wins in a 72-game season, as continuity, internal development and the acquisition of All-Star guard Chris Paul paid off.

The Suns’ winning season in 2020-21 was the first since a 48-34 finish in 2013-14 that saw the team barely miss the playoffs.

Before hiring Williams before last season, Phoenix went through five head coaches, including interims, since it last made the playoffs under Alvin Gentry in 2010. That list includes: Lindsey Hunter (2013), Jeff Hornacek (2013-15), Earl Watson (2016-17), Jay Triano (2017-18) and Igor Kokoskov (2018-19).

In his first two regular seasons with Phoenix, Williams has gone 85-60, guiding the Suns through coronavirus protocols, a bubble and a roster reshape led by general manager James Jones.

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Tom Thibodeau named NBA Coach of the Year, Suns’ Williams comes in 2nd