WASHINGTON (AP) - Talk about landing on your feet. In 10 months, Washington Mystics' Mike Thibault went from being fired to winning the WNBA's 2013 Coach of the Year, the league officially announced Saturday.
Thibault received 12 votes from a national panel of 39 media members. Seattle's Brian Agler and Chicago's Pokey Chatman each were one behind.
The WNBA's all-time leader in victories has won the award three times including 2006 and 2008 with Connecticut. The Sun let their longtime coach go in November after 10 seasons
"Last year I finished second and got fired, so I don't know," Thibault cracked when searching for answer about this honor compared to his previous awards. "Maybe this is job security for a year?" That's a safe bet. Washington was 11-57 in the two years prior to his arrival including a league worst 5-29 in 2012.
On Thursday night, the Mystics won their first playoff game in nine years, routing No. 2 seed Atlanta on the road. This came after the third-seeded Mystics won 17 games in the regular season.
Thibault now matches Van Chancellor for the most ever in league history and joins San Antonio's Dan Hughes as the only coach to win the award with two different teams.
Only four players remained from last season's roster. Four rookies are part of the 2013 edition crafted by Thibault, who also serves as Washington's general manager.
"They had to buy in," Thibault said of his players. "I was asking the veterans, the four that came back, to do things differently. ...I think that's best part of coaching in this business, see a team grow up right before your eyes."
He received the award in Washington from WNBA president Laurel Richie before the Mystics faced Atlanta in the second game of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Thibault received a career-altering call from Washington's ownership group shortly after the Sun let him go.
"About 10 months ago, I wasn't sure what I was going to do," Thibault said. "Ted Leonsis and Sheila Johnson reached out and gave me an opportunity that was too good to pass up."
Indiana's Lin Dunn received three votes. Tulsa's Gary Kloppenburg and Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve each had one vote.