Phoenix Suns: Monty Williams Robbed by Thibodeau for Coach of the Year

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Let me preface the following remarks by first of all saying, I was really impressed with what Coach Tom Thibodeau was able to do this season with a New York Knicks team that really has not been any good for a long time. Hats off the Thibs and the Knicks franchise, but Phoenix Suns Coach Monty Williams deserved to be the NBA’s Coach of the Year.

Going into the season, no one imagined that the Knicks would make it into the playoffs. I certainly did not, and neither did you. If you say you did, I am never buying a used car from you. Shoot, I won’t even buy a good, second-hand electric can opener from you at your annual garage sale. You get the hint.

Perhaps that is why Thibodeau edged out Williams for the award, as voted for by the media. When I say edged out, that is not an exaggeration. Williams actually received more first-place votes (45) than Thibodeau (43), but Thibs took home the gold because he garnered 10 more second-place votes than Williams.

I am trying to understand what happened here. There obviously are not any legitimate reasons for this decision by my pencil-pushing counterparts, so I am not searching for legitimate reasons. I am searching for explanations, but there are only three possible ones. Check that. There are only two possible explanations because I am not going to say that too many sportswriters across the country are idiots. That just would not be nice. So we will leave that explanation out, even if it probably is the best explanation there is.

Instead, we will run with the other two possible explanations. The first? It simply came down to market size. Thibs was doing what he did on the biggest stage in basketball. Sorry Los Angeles, but Madison Square Gardens is the REAL the biggest stage. Additionally, Thibs did all this with a team no one expected to do anything, again on the biggest stage.

There are an awful lot of sportswriters in that eastern time zone, generating an awful lot of media coverage and exposure. That alone is probably enough to explain the close voting totals, leaning Thibodeau’s way. That does not make it right, or even excusable, but it can certainly be a reason. Out here in Phoenix, in this later time zone, fewer people see the Suns play or Williams coach. Out of sight, and out of mind.

But sportswriters should be more knowledgeable than this, right? I mean, all they do for a living is write about sports, correct? They have to be more informed and knowledgeable about the game than this, are they not? I wish you could see the dubious look on my face as I write this. The short answer though is no. Obviously, they do not.

Interestingly enough, the coaches—whose knowledge of the game is far superior to that of the media—got it right. The coaches’ votes chose Williams as their Coach of the Year. There has to be some solace in that for Williams. In fact, Chris Paul even mentioned that in his post-game remarks following Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. If I were Williams, I would be much prouder to have been voted Coach of the Year by my peers, than by Michael Wilbon and Tony Corn-hoser (misspelling intentional). They know what they are talking about. Skip Bayless on the other hand, not so much.

The second possible explanation for Coach Thibodeau getting the nod over Williams is simply the fact that no one had any expectations for the Knicks to be any good this season. They only won 41 games in this slightly COVID-19 shortened season, but 41 in New York is like 61 everywhere else. Especially when we have grown accustomed to seeing the Knicks as bottom feeders. He took an ugly girl to the prom and that promotes goodwill.

Williams and the Suns, on the other hand, came into the season with some moderate expectations. The acquisition of Paul combined with the team’s performance in the bubble in Orlando at the end of last year had a lot of us feeling like the Suns could be a playoff team this year. If Paul could help get a talent-challenged Oklahoma City Thunder team get into the playoffs last year, he surely could do so with Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and company, right? I thought so.

Did I think they would be the second seed in the West, just one game behind the Utah Jazz for the best record in the league? I would not go that far. The Suns certainly exceeded my expectations. But there were some expectations coming into the season, and we would be disingenuous if we acted as though there were not.

Thibodeau took a team with no expectations and far exceeded what anyone imagined. Williams took an improving team with some expectations and exceeded them. The bad thing for Williams is…he did it in the desert with a smaller market team instead of under the big apple’s bright lights. That tipped the balance in Thibs’s favor.

Now, before my fellow Suns fans start jumping up and down and looking to skewer me on social media, I am NOT saying I think these reasons are legitimate. The league’s coaches agreed they were not. Williams leading the Suns to a 51-21 record, and the second seed in the Western Conference was the most impressive coaching feat in the NBA this season. Hands down. Monty Williams is the Coach of the Year. We know it. The Suns’ players know it. Even Williams’s fellow coaches know it. That is just going to have to be enough.

Next. Devin Booker surpassing NBA legends in the playoffs thus far. dark

Let Thibs enjoy his trophy. He is done for the year. He has time to enjoy it. Right now, Williams is still chasing the trophy he really wants.