On the surface, that might not sound too surprising, considering that the Bulls are coming off of a similar 2010-2011 season, but when you factor in all of the personnel inconsistencies this team has endured over the course of the year, it’s downright stupendous.
The Bulls have had starters Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and key reserve CJ Watson miss considerable time this season due to recurring injuries.
Still, with three-fourths of the season gone, Chicago still sits atop of the Eastern Conference three-and-a-half games ahead of the defending conference champion Miami Heat.
A lot of this credit goes to head coach Tom Thibodeau.
As this has been a regular thing since he’s taken over head coaching duties, it should really make him a serious favorite for Coach of the Year again, right?
Well, like any debate, a credible argument can be made for either side. Let’s look more closely to measure the likelihood of a Thibodeau COY repeat.
The Case for Thidodeau
Support for a Thibodeau repeat as Coach of the Year lies in more than just the win-loss record.
As impressive as that might be, what’s even more impressive that Chicago has remained near the top in the NBA in rebounds (currently first), points allowed (currently second) and assists (currently fourth).
The Bulls’ consistency, especially when the lineup variations are taken into account, is a testament to how well Thibodeau prepares his club.
While it is expected that certain players will lead the team in certain categories on a nightly basis, there have been numerous occasions where Bulls players outside of the main leaders have stepped up.
It’s one thing to have your main guys constantly ready—it’s something else to have the guys that are not called on as frequently to be ready to go full-throttle at a moment’s notice.
Further bolstering how well Thibodeau preps this team are the facts that Chicago has yet to lose back-to-back games this season, and the team is 4-0 in rematch games where the opponent has won the first encounter.
This shows how well Thibodeau adjusts from game to game and how much he learns about a team when he is initially bested.
With the production he’s getting out of his reserves who fill in as starters and with the adjustments he’s been able to quickly make in this rapid-fire season, Thibodeau continues to lay a strong foundation upon which his eventual sage-like coaching legend will be built.
It would be very hard to argue that what he’s been able to do this season is not Coach of the Year worthy.
The Case Against Thibodeau
There’s not much you can point out about Thibodeau’s coaching that can be used as a case against him repeating as Coach of the Year.
The biggest thing working against a repeat win would be the history of the award itself.
Since the award started being handed out in 1963, there have been six coaches who have won the awards more than once. However, there has never been a coach to win it in back-to-back seasons.
Lessening Thibodeau’s chances even more is the vague criteria that decide who the winner of the award will be.
Among the coaches who have won the award multiple times, the group does not include Red Auerbach (the man for whom the award is now named) or Phil Jackson (who has won 11 total NBA championships with two different teams).
In fact, Jackson didn’t win Coach of Year until the 1995-96 season. That’s after four championships had already been won!
Johnny Kerr, the first head coach of the Chicago Bulls, won the award for the 1966-67 season despite posting a losing record. It is believed the award for leading the Bulls to the playoffs in their inaugural season.
On the whole, though, it seems like the award is given to the coach who does the most for turning around a team’s fortunes.
Since that seems to be the general track record for handing out the award, there are a few coaches outside of Thibodeau who are stronger candidates.
The Final Analysis for Thidodeau
You cannot argue that Thibodeau has had a great sophomore season as a head coach.
It is even debatable that this year was even better than last year, considering the factors of coaching in this quick-paced lockout season and dealing with this team’s injuries have not been enough to knock Chicago out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Even when all of that is taken into perspective, it probably won’t be enough to make Thibodeau the first back-to-back winner of the NBA’s Coach of the Year award.
Frank Vogel and Doug Collins have greatly improved their respective teams, and coaches like Tyrone Corbin have overachieved in a way, considering the player personnel available.
While Bulls fans will certainly be excited if Thibodeau repeats as Coach of the Year, they should not be upset if he doesn’t.
Just knowing that this franchise has a top-tier coach for years to come should be reward enough for the always-loyal fanbase.