February 16, 2009
Historically, this has long been the toughest award to hand out. The MVP talk might dominate our time, but usually there is one player who is clearly playing the best brand of basketball in the NBA each year, it's just up to the media to ably document that.
With the coaches, however, you rarely get that impassioned back and forth. And you should, because there are always a half-dozen coaches that are worthy of this honor, year in, and year out. No exaggeration.
Phil Jackson deserves it. He's kept the Lakers' offense humming all year, while creating a top-10 defensive team out of parts that really shouldn't be on a top-10 defensive team.
Doc Rivers deserves it. One of the league's best play-callers, he's managed to sustain the motivation in Boston's defense of a championship. That's a tough, tough thing to do. It's the reason we've had just one repeat NBA champion since MJ's heyday.
Mike Brown deserves it. He still might throw a mistake or three out there, but the Cleveland Cavaliers have completely revamped their offense, sliding LeBron James into scoring alleyways that just weren't open for him last year, while sustaining the team's defensive potency.
Mike Woodson deserves it. The Hawks have a ton of flaws, and heaps of injuries, but did anyone have this team at 10 games over .500 at the All-Star break?
Gregg Popovich deserves it. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker have missed a combined 24 games this season due to injury, the Spurs are wafer-thin beyond the big three, and yet the team is rolling along as if nothing's changed.
Jerry Sloan deserves it. Deron Williams has missed 14 games and been a bit off in nearly half of the games he's suited up for, Andrei Kirilenko's missed 15 contests, and Carlos Boozer has played 12 times all year. Even Paul Millsap has missed six games. And yet, here the Jazz are. Seven games over .500, nary an excuse to be found.
Nate McMillan deserves it. Youngest team in the NBA, Greg Oden's averaging less than 23 minutes per, and the squad is 12 games above .500.
Rick Adelman? Tracy McGrady hasn't shown up all year. Three of his starters shoot under 40 percent. And somehow this mess is 32-21.
George Karl? Sure. Let us never speak of this again.
That's nine right there, without even counting the way Erik Spoelstra has learned on the job in Miami, or even pointing out how Kevin McHale had the Timberwolves playing playoff-level ball before Al Jefferson went down. Or discussing the way Scott Skiles has introduced defense to Milwaukee for the first time in over a decade.
And it doesn't even mention Stan Van Gundy, who will probably be voted Coach of the year, a deserving honor.
He's created a knockout defensive team while essentially playing without a power forward, working with two small forwards who have had poor defensive fundamentals their entire careers.
He's developed a top-5 offense based around a starting center who still fumbles the ball incessantly, working without a go-to move to boot. He's dealt with injuries, he hasn't dealt with J.J. Redick, and he has the Magic in position to cling onto the third slot in the East even playing without Jameer Nelson the rest of the way.
He's our coach of the year, and the likely Coach of the Year. And if you disagree, well, we can't blame you for that.