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Gregg Popovich beats out Tom Thibodeau for NBA Coach of the Year

Updated: May 1, 2012 3:57PM

Gregg Popovich is the NBA’s Coach of the Year after leading the San Antonio Spurs to 50 wins in the lockout-shortened season and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Popovich denied Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau a chance to become the first coach in history to win the honor in back-to-back seasons.

It’s the second time Popovich has won in his 16-year career after leading a veteran Spurs team that includes Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili through the lockout-shortened, 66-game season with a 50-16 record.

The Bulls finished with an identical record but secured home-court advantage through the NBA Finals because they defeated the Spurs in their only head-to-head meeting this season.

Popovich received 77 first-place votes. Thibodeau was second (27), Indiana coach Frank Vogel was third (7) and Memphis coach Lionel Hollins was fourth (6). Boston’s Doc Rivers and Denver’s George Karl each received a vote.

Thibodeau led the Bulls to the league’s best record for the second straight season despite players missing 98 games because of illness or injuries compared to 61 last season. Reigning MVP Derrick Rose missed 27 games during the regular season before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Saturday’s win over the Sixers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Thibodeau, who finished second in the voting, has much respect for what Popovich has accomplished in San Antonio while winning four NBA titles.

“When you look at what he’s done for such a long period of time, to me they are the gold standard of the league because every year they find a way to be right at the top and they always have a chance,” Thibodeau said before his Bulls defeated the Spurs in San Antonio on Feb. 29.

Not even Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach won Coach of the Year in back-to-back seasons, which may have been a factor in Thibodeau finishing behind Popovich. There was sentiment among some voters that if Jackson and Auerbach had not accomplished the feat nobody else deserved to, either.

Phil Jackson won 11 NBA titles but won the award only once in 1995-96. Auerbach won nine NBA championships and was named Coach of the Year in 1964-65.

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