Coach Doug Collins worked wonders for the Philadelphia 76ers this year, and his efforts were not forgotten by the media members who vote on the NBA Coach of the Year honors.
On Sunday, it was announced that Collins finished second to Chicago Bulls' first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau. The man some call Mr. Thibs received 76 first-place votes to Collins' 11.
It is hard to argue with Thibodeau's selection. The Bulls improved from 41-41 to an NBA-best 62-20, and elevated their playoff seeding from a No. 8 to a No. 1.
Thibodeau accomplished all this despite his team playing long stretches this season without either Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah, their two best big men. Given the Bulls' quick emergence as an elite team with true championship hopes, it would not have been a big upset for Thibs to rake in all of the first-place votes.
The Bulls' main man toiled 21 years as an NBA assistant before getting his chance, and he maximized it.
Praise for Thibodeau should in no way diminish what Doug Collins meant to his team or the Philadelphia pro basketball community, a group that had been either lulled to sleep or driven to anger in recent years.
The former all-star player returned to the bench for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign (with the Washington Wizards) and got out of the gate slowly. Very slowly.
The Sixers were 3-13 after the first 20 percent of the season, and coming off a 27-55 season (under the disastrous Eddie Stefanski-Eddie Jordan experiment) last season, things looked quite bleak.
Collins never gave up on his mostly young team, and had the Sixers playing good defense which fed their athletic, fast-break style of play. In the half-court set, forward Elton Brand turned in his finest year (by far) in Philly.
The best thing that Collins did was to make pro basketball in Philly relevant and exciting again. The Sixers, led by second-year point guard Jrue Holiday, and the veterans Andre Iguodala and Brand, with excellent bench play from Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams and rookie Even Turner, gave fans hope for an exciting future.
The San Antonio Spurs' Greg Popovich, who has won only one Coach of the Year award despite piloting his team to four world championships in 15 years, finished third.
Denver's George Karl finished fourth, while the Memphis' Lionel Hollins (who led the Grizzlies to the No. 8 seed and a solid six-game improvement) probably deserved at least a fourth-place finish.
Hearty congratulations are in order for both Thibodeau and Collins.
And if Collins somehow pulls a Thibodeau and goes from a .500 team to a 60-win unit, the award should be all his next year. I'm not sure how he'll accomplish that, but let's see...
A nice, fair deal of Spencer Hawes and Jodie Meeks for Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose may do the trick. Okay, they can throw in Marreese Speights to sweeten the pot.
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