NBA: 10 Reasons Tom Thibodeau, Not Gregg Popovich, Deserves Coach of the Year
As we near the end of the regular season schedule for the NBA, the discussion of who should receive which hardware begins to heat up.
Despite exceptional performances by several coaches this season, there are only two serious candidates for NBA Coach of the Year: Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau.
Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs has turned around a team which was declared well past their prime to the best record in the league at 54-13.
Thibodeau has guided the Chicago Bulls to a surprising 48-18 record to lead the Eastern Conference over the Boston Celtics.
Both coaches are doing a remarkable job this season, but only one can be named coach of the year.
Here are the ten reasons Tom Thibodeau, not Gregg Popovich, deserves NBA Coach of the Year.
10. Thibodeau Has Developed Derrick Rose into a Great Defender
If Derrick Rose ever wanted to be mentioned as an elite player or to be included in the MVP talks during a season, he would have to improve his defense.
This year, with the assistance of Thibodeau, Rose has done exactly that.
Rose is playing the best defense of his career and he can credit most of that to the defensive system Thibodeau preaches every day to his players.
Rose has done an exceptional job reading the opposition's screens and he has been fantastic while playing in isolation.
Thibodeau's presence has brought Rose's talents to another level with his demand for excellence on defense.
9. Benching of Carlos Boozer
When Thibodeau benched Carlos Boozer after a pathetic defensive game, there were media outlets who felt his decision would backfire on him.
It was predicted everywhere that mutiny would eventually form around the first-year coach and he would rub some players the wrong way.
It's hard to believe that Thibodeau would make such a bold move, especially when he was recently hired.
However, Thibodeau was proving that there is not one single player on this roster who is above this team, and it does not matter what your name is because everyone will be held equally accountable.
The players understood this concept and they all bought into Thibodeau's scheme.
Tough love is the best remedy.
8. No Shooting Guard? No Problem.
The reoccurring theme throughout this Bulls' season is their lack of production from the shooting guard position.
Has Thibodeau complained once?
He has done an excellent job utilizing the foundation of the roster he currently has.
He has gotten the most out of whomever he places in this position.
Even with the uncertainty surrounding an important position on the floor, it has not distracted him from calling a great game and obtaining the most production out of the player whose number he calls to fill in this spot.
7. Lack of Veteran Presence
Unlike the San Antonio Spurs,who have players with playoff and NBA Finals experience, the Bulls do not have a strong veteran core.
It can be argued the Bulls have players such as Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas, but they do not possess the type of personality such as a Tim Duncan or a Tony Parker on the roster.
The Bulls have a young roster, but they have been playing like veterans with Thibodeau's guidance.
6. Popovich Has Been There, Done That. Thibodeau Has Not.
Thibodeau lacks experience in the coaching department and despite being on the sidelines with Boston Celtics' legendary coach Doc Rivers, this is still unfamiliar territory for him, too.
For Popovich, this is same old song and dance for him.
Every year, the Spurs are consistently in this position as either the best team in the Western Conference or chasing down another NBA championship.
It's not like Popovich has never been placed in these circumstances.
For Thibodeau to be near-flawless in his first year as a head coach and to have the Bulls make constant national headlines, is completely remarkable.
Thibodeau has been optimistically confident all year and he has placed the Bulls into the position of being a NBA playoff favorite.
It is interesting to think about where the Bulls would be today if they did not hire him to draw the X's and the O's.
5. Thibodeau Is a Defensive Coach
"The best offense is a great defense," is a quote Thibodeau believes in with all of his heart.
Thibodeau is willing to allow his players to make their own decisions while on offense as long as they continue to be aggressive on defense.
Opponents average just 91.3 points per game against the Chicago Bulls while shooting a league low .429 percent from the field.
Many people felt the team would struggle to adapt to Thibodeau's grueling game plan, but the Bulls have transitioned smoothly.
4. There Are Better Teams in the East
Outside of the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs, the Western Conference competition is weak compared the the Eastern Conference.
There has been a huge shift in power over the last couple of years in the Eastern Conference.
The top six teams in the Eastern Conference—Chicago, Boston, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks—all have legitimate shots and cases to win the NBA championship.
Even with being in the toughest conference, the Bulls appear to ignore it as they are 29-11 against conference foes.
3. Thibodeau Has Guided the Chicago Bulls to a Possible No. 1 or No. 2 Seed
After last season's disappointing finish, who would have thought the Chicago Bulls were going be where they are today?
For those of you raising your hands, please place them back down because nobody truly believed the Bulls were going to have a sensational season this year.
The Bulls are playing amazing, fundamental basketball and it has propelled them to first place in the Eastern Conference.
There is not one soul out there who can honestly say they knew the Bulls were going to be ahead of the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat in he standings on March 16, 2011.
The Bulls are on pace to win 60 games this season after being 41-41 last year.
Thibodeau has done so much for the Bulls in such a little time frame.
2. He is a Rookie Coach
For years, Thibodeau was a pupil of the great Doc Rivers with the Boston Celtics.
Even under such a prominent name in basketball, many people were unsure what to expect from Thibodeau as a coach.
However, with the confident play-calling and the respect he has received from his players, it overshadows his label as rookie head coach.
He has the mindset of a veteran coach and the tenacity of a championship coach.
Even though he has the best player in game today on his roster, there have been numerous situations he has faced where a rookie coach would cower, but Thibodeau instead conquers the challenge.
1. Injuries, Injuries and More Injuries
Thibodeau had the unfortunate luck to be without Joakim Noah for a couple months and he had to deal with another blow when Carlos Boozer had to miss a couple of weeks because of a sprained ankle.
To make matters worse, Derrick Rose had to miss a couple games earlier in the year, too.
And just as soon as Noah returned from his injury, down goes Boozer with another ankle injury.
To say Thibodeau had his share of injuries would be an understatement.
He has not had his full unit together for an entire month, but he has somehow managed to figure out ways to continue to thrive and win.
He has dealt with so many injuries that should have been obstacles for him, but he was able to turn them into positives as it enabled him to have a closer look at his team.
Popovich's squad has been healthy throughout the whole season and he has not had the unfortunate task finding a player to fit a star player's void.
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