Tom Thibodeau, who led the Bulls to a 62-20 regular season and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in his first year as a head coach, is the NBA's coach of the year.
``I'm flattered, humbled and honored to receive this award,'' Thibodeau said in accepting the award Sunday. ``But I think it represents a lot more than just me. I think it's more of a team award. This is a team game. You don't achieve by yourself in this game.''
He is the fourth Bulls' coach to receive the honor, following Johnny ``Red'' Kerr (1966-67), Dick Motta (1970-71) and Phil Jackson (1995-96).
Asked how he'll celebrate, Thibs said, ``Hopefully, have a great practice tomorrow. That would be a great celebration for me.''
Thibodeau, 53, who was hired last June to succeed Vinny Del Negro, took the Bulls job after 21 years as an NBA assistant coach. His reputation grew on Doc Rivers' staff with the Boston Celtics after the Celtics won the NBA title in 2008.
``I knew the first couple of weeks that he was here that we'd hit a grand slam,'' said general manager Gar Forman, citing Thibodeau's work ethic. ``Tom's been everything we knew he'd be, and more. We're thrilled that he's here.''
Thibodeau's 62 wins leave him tied with Paul Westphal, who won 62 in 1992-93 at Phoenix, for most wins by a rookie head coach.
His players were ecstatic:
* ``I'm happy for him. He's very well deserving,'' Joakim Noah said. ``Coach is one of the hardest workers I've ever been around. I feel like your coach is your leader. We have the personality of our coach. The city's proud of the way we're playing. The way we play is the way he is.''
* ``I know it's coach Thibs' name on it, but that makes all of us feel great,'' Luol Deng said. ``Any time one of us wins something, that's an award for all of us. He's an awesome coach, a great coach on and off the court.
``The way we approach things, approach games, you can take that into everyday life, in just being a man, handling your responsabilities. He holds us responsible. Becoming winners, winning 62 games, it just became a habit. We all bought into it. That's how you become a winner.''
* ``He deserves it,'' forward Taj Gibson said. ``He's a great coach. He watches every detail, critiques your game. He's been phenomenal with me in my growth as a player. He's turned us into a whole new mode of team. Our passion, our aggression toward every game is pheonomenal.''
Derrick Rose, who shares Thibodeau's dedication to every little detail, has developed a special bond with Thibodeau. Even Rose has been taken aback by Thibs' thoroughness.
``I've never played for a coach that was this focused,'' Rose said earlier this season. ``Where there's nothing else. No kids. No wife. No leisure time just to watch TV. I'm dead serious.
``I've never heard about Thibs being out eating anywhere, never ran into him anywhere. Never. No matter what city we're in. I've never been around, or ever met, a coach that's like that.''
Rose doesn't worry about his coach, though.
``No. He's healthy,'' Rose said. ``We're winning. He seems like he's enjoying himself. So I'm fine with it. As long as we keep winning, he can keep this going.''
In response, Thibodeau played along with Rose's comment that he's so single-minded about coaching the Bulls that he's never been spotted in a restaurant.
``Yeah. I don't eat. I don't sleep,'' he said.
Told it had been suggested that Rose ought to give his coach a dining gift certificate to get him out of the video room, Thibs smiled.
``He should,'' Thibodeau said.
On second thought, he quickly added, ``Actually, I should send him one.''