Tom Thibodeau has been named the 2020-21 NBA Coach of the Year, but not without controversy.
The Knicks’ first-year coach narrowly edged out Sun’s second-year coach Monty Williams 351-340 to win the award for the second time in his career. Thibodeau is the first coach to receive the honor in his first year as a coach with two different teams (the first came with the Bulls in 2010-11).
But Williams, who had already been named the NBCA Coach of the Year, garnered more first-place votes (45) than his Knicks counterpart (43). Thibodeau secured the award with 10 more second-place votes. Below is the vote count in 2020-21, decided by the media and based on the regular season only.
Phoenix’s Monty Williams gets the most first-place votes, but finishes second behind the Knicks’ Thibodeau. Quin Snyder of Utah lands at No. 3. Full COY voting results: pic.twitter.com/UDwfdOAha4
– Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 7, 2021
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There is something to be said for Thibodeau that led New York to its first place in the playoffs and the winning season since the 2012-13 season. But Williams’s Suns produced more wins (51) than Thibodeau’s Knicks (41), a better winning percentage (.708 to .569), and a higher seed in the NBA playoffs (the Suns are the second-seeded in the Western Conference playoffs, compared to the Knicks’ 4 seed in the Eastern Conference).
Phoenix also experienced a playoff berth for the first time with Williams, and the first time since 2009-10. Although it has nothing to do with the Coach of the Year vote, the Suns also became the sixth team to unseat the defending NBA champions in the first round, beating the Lakers in six games. The Knicks lost their first-round series against Atlanta, seeded 4, in five.
For those who care about those things, Williams has far less coaching experience in the NBA. Thibodeau was an NBA assistant for 20 years before becoming head coach for the first time with the Bulls in 2020-11; the 2020-21 season was his ninth as head coach. Williams was an assistant for five years before returning to play five seasons from 2010-15. He then spent a season as an associate head coach in Oklahoma City and another year as an assistant in Philadelphia before taking over for the Suns in 2019-20.