New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is the recipient of the Red Auerbach Trophy as the 2020-21 NBA Coach of the Year, the NBA announced on Tuesday night.
This is the second NBA Coach of the Year Award for Thibodeau, who earned the honour in the 2010-11 season with the Chicago Bulls in his first season as an NBA head coach. Now honoured in his first season as the Knicks’ head coach, Thibodeau has become the first person to be named NBA Coach of the Year in his first season as head coach with two different franchises.
Cotton Fitzsimmons won the award in his first season as the Kansas City Kings’ head coach for the 1978-79 season and again in the first season of his second tenure as the Phoenix Suns’ head coach for the 1988-89 season.
Thibodeau received 43 first-place votes and earned 351 total points to edge Phoenix head coach Monty Williams, who finished second with 340 points. The 11-point difference between the first- and second-place finishers marks the smallest margin since the current NBA Coach of the Year voting format was introduced in the 2002-03 season.
Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder finished in third place with 161 points (10 first-place votes). Coaches were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.
With Thibodeau as head coach, New York finished tied for the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference (41-31) and made the NBA Playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season. The Knicks won 16 of their final 20 games to complete a turnaround from last season’s overall record of 21-45.
Thibodeau led New York to an 11-4 record in April for its winningest month since March 2014 (11-5). He was selected as the NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for May after guiding the Knicks to a 6-3 record in the final month of the regular season.
The Knicks showed dramatic improvement on defence with Thibodeau at the helm, leading the NBA in points allowed (104.7) and opponents’ field goal percentage (44.0) and ranking fourth in defensive rating (107.8). Last season, New York finished 17th or lower in all three categories.
Under Thibodeau, Julius Randle was named an NBA All-Star for the first time and won the 2020-21 Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award. In addition, Derrick Rose was a finalist for the 2020-21 Kia NBA Sixth Man Award, 2021 NBA Rising Stars selection RJ Barrett ranked as the fourth-leading scorer among second-year NBA players (17.6 ppg), and rookie Immanuel Quickley averaged 11.4 points after being selected by New York with the 25th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Thibodeau is the 10th head coach to win the NBA Coach of the Year Award more than once and the eighth to do it with multiple franchises. In addition, he is the third head coach to be selected as NBA Coach of the Year with the Knicks, joining Red Holzman (1969-70) and Pat Riley (1992-93).
New York hired Thibodeau as its head coach on July 30, 2020. He has a career regular-season record of 393-277 (.587) in nine seasons as an NBA head coach, guiding teams to the playoffs seven times. Before joining the Knicks, he served as head coach of the Bulls for five seasons (2010-15) and the Minnesota Timberwolves over three seasons (2016-19).
The NBA Coach of the Year Award trophy is named in honour of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Red Auerbach. The legendary head coach guided the Celtics to nine NBA championships, including eight in a row from 1959-66.
- A Tell report