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Kristian Winfield: Knicks' Tom Thibodeau continues to put Coach of the Year ballot to shame

Kristian Winfield, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

NEW YORK — It’s funny when you think about it.

Tom Thibodeau finished fifth among his peers in Coach of the Year voting, an award rightfully claimed by Oklahoma City Thunder coach Mark Daigneault, who captained the youngest team ever to both win 55 games in a season and secure to the No. 1 seed in either the Eastern or Western Conferences in NBA history.

Daigneault ran away with the league honor, taking home 89 of the 99 first-place votes to create 315 points worth of separation between himself and the runner-up, Orlando Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley.

Mosley had an admirable season, leading Paolo Banchero and a Magic team with just one player over age 29 to the East’s No. 5 seed.

So did both Chris Finch, who coached Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves to one game shy of the West’s No. 1 seed, and Joe Mazzulla, whose loaded Boston Celtics finished seven games better than the West’s No. 1 seed and 14 games better than the next-best Eastern Conference team.

That team is the Knicks — Thibodeau’s Knicks — who miraculously claimed the second seed in the East despite a barrage of injuries and a pair of mid-season trades.

 

If Thibodeau’s regular-season success in the face of adversity doesn’t reinforce his status as a top-three coach of the year candidate snub, consider what he’s done in the playoffs, as he’s positioned these Knicks one game shy of their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals since 2000.

There is no reason Thibodeau should not have finished top-three in Coach of the Year honors. He has turned water into wine, pushing a depleted, injury-riddled Knicks roster beyond its limits to put it on pace for one of the best single seasons in franchise history.

It’s no wonder the Knicks, reportedly, are preparing to offer Thibodeau a long-term — and lucrative — contract extension to stay at Madison Square Garden.

After all, Thibodeau powered the Knicks to the No. 2 seed despite a wave of injuries that would have wrecked a number of seasons elsewhere.

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