Basketball

Raptors' Sam Mitchell voted NBA coach of year

Sam Mitchell of the Toronto Raptors was named the NBA's coach of the year on Tuesday.

Sam Mitchell of the Toronto Raptors was named the NBA's coach of the year on Tuesday.

Mitchell earned 49 first-place votes for a total of 394 points in balloting by 128 basketball writers and broadcasters.

Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz finished second with 301 points, followed by Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson who had 268.

"It's a little bit embarrassing," Mitchell said at news conference Tuesday. "It's very humbling considering the things we've been through. Not just me, my staff, the players who've been here, all the people who've been involved.

"It's a great honour, it kind of floors you. You're thankful, and words just can't express it."

Mitchell, the first coach in Raptors history to receive the award, led the club to its first Atlantic Division title this season, tying a franchise record with 47 wins.

A season ago, the Raptors stumbled to a 27-55 record, but Mitchell led a revamped Toronto team to 20 more wins in 2006-07, his third season in charge, and guided the club to its first playoff appearance in five years.

The Raptors trail the New Jersey Nets 1-0 in their Eastern Conference quarter-final after dropping a 96-91 decision on Saturday.

Toronto hosts the Nets in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series Tuesday night and Mitchell will be presented with the Red Auerbach Trophy, given to the coach of the year, before the game.

The award is especially sweet for Mitchell, as he was voted the worst coach in the NBA last year in an unofficial poll of players by Sports Illustrated.

"I feel kind of funny sitting up here by myself," said Mitchell. "I feel it should be the whole organization sitting up here behind me, the players, front office people, equipment managers … I tell the players all the time, there's so much work going into us being successful.

"As a coach, you get a lot of the credit, but there are so many people that make my job easier, so I can do my job."

Mitchell played 13 NBA seasons and after he retired in 2002, he began his coaching career as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks.

In May 2004, Mitchell joined the expansion Charlotte Bobcats as an assistant before taking over as the Raptors' head coach later that year.

Mitchell's contract with Toronto expires at the end of this season and the two sides have yet come to terms on a new deal.