TORONTO (AP) - Sam Mitchell was honored as the NBA coach of the year Tuesday after leading the Toronto Raptors to a franchise-record-tying 47 victories and their first Atlantic Division title.
"It's a great honor," Mitchell said. "It floors you. You're thankful. Words just can't express it."
Mitchell won the Red Auerbach Trophy in a decisive vote over Utah's Jerry Sloan. He picked up 49 first-place votes for a total of 394 points in balloting by 128 basketball writers and broadcasters. Sloan had 301 points followed by Dallas' Avery Johnson with 268.
"We recognized him for it this morning, " forward Chris Bosh said. "But the thing I love about him is he said it was a team effort."
Mitchell, the sixth coach in Toronto's team's history, guided the Raptors to an NBA-best 20-game improvement (27-55) over the 2005-06 season. The Raptors trail New Jersey 1-0 in a first-round playoff series., with Game 2 Tuesday night in Toronto.
Guard Anthony Parker praised Mitchell for building unity on a team that added nine new faces before the season.
"From the summer, after I signed, his focus was trying to get us all in and get the chemistry going early," Parker said. "Throughout the course of the season we seemed to come together pretty nicely. Sam obviously was a huge part of that."
During a 13-year playing career that ended in 2002, Mitchell was held in high regard around the league as a student of the game. Following two seasons as an assistant, he was hired as the Raptors' coach on June 29, 2004.
"He's done a great job with the ball club," forward Morris Peterson said Monday. "He's really grown a lot over his first couple of years coaching. If anybody in the NBA deserves it, it's him. He's proved a lot of people wrong."
Guard T.J. Ford said Mitchell puts his faith in the players.
"He's going to give us the structure offensively and defensively, but it's up to us to go out there execute," he said. "He puts it in our hands and lets us control it. He's been great in that aspect."