Monty Williams can still win the preferred prize. Quinn Snyder, too. Suns and Jazz are still playing to win the NBA this year, and that’s the goal that feeds all 30 men who make a living as head coaches in the league.
Soon this will again be the holy grail of Tom Thibodeau.
But for now? Voters understood this absolutely correctly. Tom Thibodeau did the best coaching job in the NBA this year and, frankly, was not close. Knicks have been on fire for two decades. They were expected to learn how to act and play professionally under Thibodeau this year, take a step forward and be representative professional equipment.
But Thibodeau taught them something else.
He taught them how to win. He pushed them every night, insisted on playing together, insisted on embracing the whole. His message echoed. The Knicks flirted with .500 for most of the year, then continued unusually in the last month of the regular season. They finished 41
“I know what this team means to this city,” said Thibodeau, 63. “It’s very important to me. To have the band we had this year, the way they sacrificed and played for each other.
“Whenever we missed the next day, they came back immediately with determination and readiness for success.”
And it was Thibodeau who created this. What he achieved in 72 games of the regular season was a bit hidden from how bad the Knicks looked against the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs – although the Hawks’ performance in Philadelphia on Sunday should reduce the continuing disappointment.
This year he doesn’t beat 1,000; he buried Austin Rivers, who could certainly have helped the Knicks last week as he helped Denver advance. He stayed too long with Elfried Peyton, and instead of keeping Derrick Rose in the backup when he finally made a move, he started it and probably helped wear it out.
But perfection is not the job of the coach.
It is professionalism. Its establishment, its preaching, its application. The Knicks have been a joke for 20 consecutive years. They are already a joke. We will see what the next steps will give, but those we have already seen tell the story clearly: the coach made such a big difference.
And Thibodeau seemed genuinely excited to join the other two Knicks coaches to win the award: Pat Riley and Red Holtzman, who led Thibodeau’s Knicks youth to just two titles in the franchise.
“These were my heroes,” he said.
It was still believed that voters would reward Snyder for dominating Utah during the season over the West or Williams for elevating Phoenix to the West after 10 seasons without playoffs. And if they were, it would be defensible. These are contenders for the title and the teams did not train alone.
This will soon be the standard of Thibodeau again, as it was 10 years ago, for the first time he won the bull award. So far, he has admitted to kicking the mud out of the franchise foundation by turning the lights back on in the Garden. Good for voters. Better for Thibodeau.