He’d trade it in without hesitation for a chance at a Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors, but awards like these usually don’t work that way. George Karl has rightfully won the 2012-13 Coach of the Year award. The Denver Nuggets head man led his star-less roster to 57 wins this season, before injuries and matchup issues led to a first round ouster at the hand of the upstart Warriors. The award comes nearly 30 years into Karl’s coaching career, and this is the first George has ever received this honor on the NBA level.
A richly deserved honor, it should be noted. Karl’s Nuggets traded away MVP-vote earnin’ Carmelo Anthony over two years ago, and in the seasons since the team has quietly added assets, while centering its team on a transition attack that features a different hero every night. Even the team’s closest approximation of a “star,” 2012 All-Star Andre Iguodala, turned in an off year after being dealt to the Nuggets.
On top of that, the Nuggets had to endure one of the more one-sided starts to a season schedule that we’ve ever seen in our many years of obsessing over this league.
Denver played 17 of its first 23 games on the road, and didn’t really start a consistent streak of playing at home until the calendar switched over to 2013. This initiated a tough 17-15 start to the season, but Karl’s crew refused to fall apart. Knowing that they needed to make up for time lost on the road, the team rallied to win 40 of its next 50 games. As a result, the Nuggets were one of the NBA’s hottest teams as spring rolled around, until an ACL tear to Danilo Gallinari paired with crucial heel and ankle injuries to Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried, hamstringing the team’s attack as it hit the postseason.
The team’s future is unclear, as Gallinari’s tear and the uncertainty behind Iguodala’s potential free agency could lead to a shook-up 2013-14, but for now the Nuggets should be proud of how they rallied in 2012-13, winning a franchise-high amount of games while providing entertaining basketball even in the losing turns.
Each year the Coach of the Year award turns several worthy candidates into technical losers, and this season was no different. Sideline workers like Gregg Popovich, Tom Thibodeau, Erik Spoelstra, Mike Woodson, Frank Vogel, Mark Jackson and Kevin McHale all deserved consideration for their work, with Spoelstra, Woodson, Vogel and Coach Pop rounding out the top five behind Karl. Annually, the Coach of the Year award presents the toughest vote amongst all of the NBA’s regular season awards, and 2012-13 held up that tradition.
Vinny Del Negro received a first and second-place vote, after turning in what could best be characterized as an up and down year. P.J. Carlesimo and Larry Drew both received a first place vote, with Carlesimo having already been let go by the Brooklyn Nets and Larry Drew potentially not far behind with his Atlanta Hawks. And apparently voters were as concerned with Tom Thibodeau’s minutes allotments as we were, because he received just two first place votes, seven second place votes, and nine third place votes.
In the end, the award went to the right guy. Because with the Coach of the Year, there are always a half-dozen “right guys” to choose from. It remains a player’s league, but the NBA should be well-pleased with the abilities of its many fantastic head coaches.