Williams among rookie coaches to excel in debut

Monday, May 2, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Basketball analysts often say nothing is more important than experience in coaching, but the 2010-11 season may one day be remembered as the year of the rookie head coach. Among the men who debuted on the sidelines this season, Chicago boss Tom Thibodeau captured the Coach of the Year trophy, with 76 of a possible 119 first-place votes. Fellow rookie head coach Monty Williams finished in seventh place in the voting, after guiding New Orleans to a 46-36 record and a return to the playoffs.

The 39-year-old Williams actually began the season as the NBA’s youngest head coach, but another first-year success story, Indiana’s Frank Vogel, took that “title” after being hired as the Pacers’ interim coach midway through the season. Vogel also was listed in the Coach of the Year results, picking up one third-place vote. Williams’ seventh-place finish was based on receiving 10 third-place votes.

Though they probably received the most acclaim, Thibodeau, Williams and Vogel weren’t even the league’s only effective rookie head coaches. Atlanta’s Larry Drew, in his first season after serving as a longtime assistant, has guided the Hawks to an appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals, after ousting Orlando in Round 1.

Coach, Team 1st 2nd 3rd Pts
Tom Thibodeau, Chicago 76 29 8 475
Doug Collins, Philadelphia 18 31 27 210
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio 11 31 29 177
George Karl, Denver 12 18 25 139
Nate McMillan, Portland 1 5 8 28
Lionel Hollins, Memphis -- 4 7 19
Monty Williams, New Orleans -- -- 10 10
Erik Spoelstra, Miami 1 -- 1 6
Phil Jackson, LA Lakers -- 1 -- 3
Rick Carlisle, Dallas -- -- 2 2
Doc Rivers, Boston -- -- 1 1
Frank Vogel, Indiana -- -- 1 1