Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett stands on the bench during the second period of his team's NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Flames 2-1 in overtime for Tippett's 500th coach
Ross D. Franklin
November 28, 2015

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Dave Tippett walked out of his postgame news conference to a hallway inside Gila River Arena, where a security guard tried to hand him the gaudy championship belt.

Tippett instinctively reached out his hand before pulling it back.

The players had already awarded their player-of-the-game prize to Tippett in the locker room and there was no way he was going to be seen with it in a semi-public place.

Five hundred wins and still humble.

''Players win games. Coaches don't win games,'' Tippett said after Arizona's 2-1 overtime win over Calgary Friday night, career victory No. 500 for the Coyotes' coach. ''I've been really fortunate to work with some great players and been around a long time. I still enjoy it.''

Tippett was a feisty forward for three teams during an 11-year NHL career before establishing himself as one of the league's top defensive coaches in Dallas. He arrived in the desert in 2009 and was a perfect fit for the Coyotes in their post-bankruptcy run.

Tippett made the most of what he had, taking the low-budget, NHL-run Coyotes to the playoffs three straight seasons behind a scrappy, defensive style of hockey that wore opponents down rather than overwhelming them.

Those Coyotes hit their peak in 2012, when they reached the Western Conference finals and brought a town of band-wagoning fans with them.

The Coyotes labored through the strike-shortened 2012-13 season to miss the playoffs and the ongoing, seemingly never-ending saga to find an owner left his status in doubt as his contract was about to end.

Tippett agreed to a five-year deal, but his future wasn't all that clear even after a new ownership group bought the team from the league.

The doubt wasn't from the owners. It was whether Tippett would come back to coach a team in transition.

Talk about respect.

''He's obviously a special coach and he's done a lot with this group,'' Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. ''He does a lot for each player individually and as a group gets us to play the right way.''

Tippett may be doing his best work this season.

A year ago, the Coyotes shifted into a rebuilding mode, shipping out several key veteran players around the trade deadline. It wasn't a complete rebuild, but they were going to rely more on young players than they had in the past.

As a result, the Coyotes were picked by Vegas oddsmakers to be the worst team in the NHL.

It hasn't worked out that way.

The Coyotes have been one of the biggest surprises of the NHL through the first two months of the season, entering Saturday's game against Ottawa third in the Pacific Division and sixth in the Western Conference at 12-9-1.

Tippett has held the reins of a team that has star-quality young players in Max Domi and Anthony Duclair and meshed them with veteran s who still fit into his defensive-style of play.

Arizona's win over Calgary night looked like so many others of Tippett's 500: The Coyotes grinded through the rough patches, got superb goaltending from Smith and won it on a big goal, by Oliver Ekman-Larsson in overtime.

''It shows he's got a bunch of good players, right?'' Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal said, drawing a laugh from reporters. ''No, that's what he would say. I'm really happy for him and hopefully he gets a couple more hundred.''

When Ekman-Larsson's goal beat Calgary's Karri Ramo, Tippett did a quick round of handshakes and ducked down the hallway behind the bench, characteristically downplaying his personal achievement.

Once he reached the locker room, the players weren't going to let him off the hook.

Antoine Vermette, serving as captain with Shane Doan out with injury, ran down a few players who played well before turning to Tippett and tossing the belt at him. Cheers rang out in the room and Tippett grabbed the title belt, briefly holding it up next to his ear.

''It takes good players to get to 500 wins,'' Tippett told them. ''That's all on you guys.''

He'll never admit it, but Tippett had a bit of a hand in it, too.

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