Billy Donovan 'Honored' To Be Fifth Coach of The Month in Chicago Bulls history

Billy Donovan became the fifth to be named a Coach of the Month winner for the Bulls.

The Bulls have had 18 full-time coaches in franchise history back to Johnny Kerr in the 1966-67 expansion season. Billy Donovan Thursday became the fifth to be named a Coach of the Month winner for the Bulls.

Although the Bulls were just 9-7 in November, the month for which Donovan was honored, they rode through the period remaining at 14-8 tied for second in the Eastern Conference, a game and a half behind the first place Brooklyn Nets.

But the Bulls faced perhaps the most difficult schedule in the league with 12 consecutive games to begin the month again playoff teams. The Bulls won on the road in November in Boston, twice in Los Angeles back to back, and in Denver. The Bulls also defeated the front running Nets by 23 points and closed the month earlier this week with a decisive win over the developing Charlotte Hornets.

Donovan, in his second season as Bulls coach after a 31-41 start amidst trades and massive changes, becomes the first Bulls coach named NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month since Tom Thibodeau in January 2013.

The Bulls Thursday were in New York to play Thibodeau's Knicks.

Thibodeau said before the game he has been a friend of Donovan's since the two met when Donovan was a player at Providence with Jeff Van Gundy an assistant coach for Rick Pitino on that team. Donovan was an unlikely overachiever to help lead that team to the 1987 NCAA Final Four. That staff also included future NBA coaches Stu Jackson and Gordon Chiesa as well as Van Gundy.

"I have great respect for him," said Thibodeau. "I think he's a terrific coach and even a better person."

The NBA began selecting Coach of the Month winners in 1982. The first was Scotty Robertson then with the Pistons. Robertson was an interim Bulls coach in 1979 after Larry Costello was fired. Doug Collins in 1987 was the first Bulls coach to receive the honor. Phil Jackson was named four times, Scott Skiles two and Thibodeau six times.

It's also perhaps the start of recognition for the Bulls franchise after a fallow period in which no coach or players has been named a month award winner since Jimmy Butler seven years ago. Coby White was named Rookie of the Month in February 2020 after Nikola Mirotic in March 2014.

"I think anytime you are in a team setting and there is any kind of acknowledgement, per se, I think it's always a reflection of the coaching staff and the players and the organization, in my opinion," Donovan said prior to the game. "The players are the ones who do it out there on the court. This has been a great group to deal with; obviously, I'm very very humbled by it and honored by it. But I also realize without the players and the staff, I just happened to be the one being recognized. But to me it's really a recognition of our team.

"I think that (coming together so quickly with a revamped roster) speaks to maybe what I have been talking about from Day 1, the willingness of these guys to come back into Chicago after Labor Day to get to work with each other, to get to know each other, to spend time on the court playing with one another," said Donovan. "I think the work they put in during training camp, the fact that we knew it was an entirely new group and an entirely new team and we were starting from scratch. You know there were a lot of teams, especially in the East, that have a lot of continuity and consistency and have been together. And we're one of those teams that hasn't. We tried to expedite some of those growing pains; we've gone through them this year. We've had to learn to play without Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) with Covid; Coby's got his situation (now out with Covid with what Donovan said are mild, cold-like symptoms). Patrick (Williams, out for four-to-six months, injured). Everybody's kind of learned how to play together. So I think it's more of a reflection on how much time and effort and time and energy those guys have put into trying to become a team and trying to continue to grow and get better as a group each day."

The Suns Monty Williams was named Western Conference Coach of the Month for November.