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Monty Williams finishes second in NBA Coach of the Year voting, and he’s cool with that

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Williams was named the Coach of the Year by his peers last month but lost out in media voting

NBA: Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams finished second in the NBA’s 2020-21 Coach of the Year voting to New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, announced by the NBA today.

This award is voted on by the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA), a collection of media that includes national writers like ESPN’s Zach Lowe through local beat writers in every market. The PBWA votes on most of the most popularized postseason awards.

Williams, who received the National Basketball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year Award in May, earned the most first-place votes from media members at 45 but ultimately had the second-most total points for the award at 340. Thibodeau had 351 points, earning more second-place votes (42) and nine fewer third-place votes (10) than Williams.

According to NBA.com, the 11-point difference between the first- and second-place finishers marks the smallest margin since the current NBA Coach of the Year voting format was introduced in the 2002-03 season.

“They (the Knicks) have had an unreal year,” Williams said. “It’s pretty cool to watch somebody that I’ve worked with win an award like that and what they’ve been able to do in New York is pretty cool, it’s a reflection of how hard [Thibodeau] works and that team plays. Those are really cool moments when you have one of your brothers that you’ve worked with get an achievement like that.”

In his third season as the Suns’ coach, Williams led the franchise to its first playoff berth since 2009-10 and first top-two finish in the West since 2006-07 with a 51-21 record. Before Williams took Phoenix back to the postseason, it finished at the bottom of the Western Conference more times (four) than it finished with a .500 or better record (twice), including a decade-worst 19-63 mark the season before Williams’ arrival.

“As far as the margin is concerned, it’s a reflection of how your team is playing,” Williams said. “So if you’re in the top group of coaches, that means your team is probably playing well.

“As I’ve said before, I’m grateful to have a job in this economy. I’m grateful to have a team that has played well, and we hope that they continue to play well. I’m glad to be in that group of coaches. I’m probably the one that doesn’t fit as far as guys who are looked at as coaches in that regard. I wasn’t a guard, I wasn’t a point guard or any of those things that most people look for as far as being in that group of coaches. So for me, it’s an honor to even be mentioned.”

After defeating the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs — Williams’ first postseason series win as a coach — the Suns will face the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the semifinal round on Monday. The contest will tip off at 7 p.m. MT on TNT.