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They Call Him Mr. Thibs

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By Jordan Kabialis

The Chicago Bulls received their first piece of postseason hardware Sunday afternoon when head coach Tom Thibodeau was awarded with the 2011 NBA Coach of the Year Award.

The news was first reported by ESPN this morning that Thibodeau would be given the honor, reports that were backed by tweets by the Chicago Bulls and Scottie Pippen. The team held a press conference at the Berto Center (Bulls practice facility) later that afternoon.

“I’m flattered, humbled and honored to receive this award, but I think it represents a lot more than just me,” Thibodeau said when receiving the award. He continued to give recognition to all who he felt led him to this point including just about everyone he’d ever coached under. Thibodeau refused to acknowledge the award as an individual honor, continually referring to it as a “team award”.

Thibodeau is still in his first year as head coach of the Chicago Bulls and his first year as a head coach overall. After spending 20 years as an assistant in the NBA, most notably under Doc Rivers, Thibodeau finally got his shot at becoming a head coach last off-season receiving offers from many teams in the NBA. He ultimately decided the Chicago Bulls were the best fit and the rest began to take shape from there.

The Bulls went on to sign eight new players to surround the existing core of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. Most notable of those acquisitions being the three players from Utah: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. The Bulls would also go on to get big contributions during the season from veterans Kurt Thomas and Keith Bogans along with quality minutes off the bench from Taj Gibson and C.J. Watson.

The Chicago Bulls, who finished last season just 41-41 and 8th in the Eastern Conference under Vinny Del Negro, finished the regular season 62-20, the best record in the NBA, under the new leadership of Thibodeau.

Photo from David Sherman/Getty Images

Not only did the first-year head coach turn the team around to 21 more wins than the previous season, he also had the Bulls as one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. This comes as no real surprise as Thibodeau was known in Boston for his defensive mind-set.

Thibodeau’s work ethic is certainly reflected in his players and also showed itself in one of his responses during the press conference. When asked how he would like to celebrate the award he responded, “Hopefully with a good practice tomorrow”.

The Bulls are now preparing for a second round series against the Atlanta Hawks that begins tonight at 7:00pm at the United Center in Chicago. The Bulls were 2-1 against Atlanta during the regular season, their lone loss resulting from a blown 20-point lead in Atlanta on March 2nd.

The Hawks will be without starting point guard Kirk Hinrich, who strained his hamstring in their game six, series clinching victory over the Orlando Magic. The Hawks will have to find a new way to defend Derrick Rose, as Hinrich, one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, was figured to originally spend most of his time trying to slow down the likely MVP.

The Bulls will be dealing with an injury of their own, as starting power forward Carlos Boozer is battling turf toe. Boozer, who was virtually non-existent in the Bulls’ first round series with Indiana, will look to find his rhythm despite the injury against Atlanta.

Rather than dealing with Tyler Hansboro, Boozer will be dealing with All-Star Al Horford.