As promised, the NBA has taken a fresh look at its position on the longstanding but informal practice on crediting wins earned by teams run by interim coaches not to that temporary leader, but rather to the head coach in whose stead the interim coach serves. Unfortunately for Golden State Warriors store-minder Luke Walton, who has moved up to the head of the Dubs' bench in place of the injured Steve Kerr, who's still working his way back to the club after offseason back surgery, the league has decided not to change things up.
From the league's Tuesday announcement:
The NBA clarified today the league’s rules regarding coaching records: the head coach of record is credited with team wins and losses. Steve Kerr remains the head coach of record for the Golden State Warriors and is credited with those results.
Additionally, any team head coach, interim head coach or acting head coach is eligible to be recognized with league coaching awards. Therefore, Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton is eligible for NBA Coach of the Month. The winners for the season’s first month will be announced later today.
So, y'know, take a wild guess who was named November's Western Conference Coach of the Month on Tuesday afternoon.
Cavs' David Blatt and Warriors' Luke Walton named NBA Coaches of the Month for games played in Oct./Nov. for their respective conferences.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) December 1, 2015
This makes Walton both the first interim coach to win such an award, and the first to do so despite not officially having any wins under his belt. This is weird!
Walton earns the honor for presiding over the Warriors' perfect November, a month that saw the defending champions win all 16 of their games, extend their record-setting season-opening winning streak to 19 games and push their overall winning streak — which stretches back to last season — to 23 games, the third-longest run in NBA history. Golden State decimated the competition last month, scoring a league-high 113.6 points per 100 possessions and outscoring the opposition by a whopping 16.5 points-per-100 — head and shoulders above even the 11.4-per-100 mark they rolled up en route to 67 wins and the 2014-15 NBA championship.
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Many observers — most notably Kerr — have suggested it's ridiculous for Walton not to receive full credit for the Warriors' undefeated start to the season, but the NBA ultimately decided maintaining the existing policy, while perhaps unfair to Walton, was the best course in the grand scheme of things, according to Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times:
Many people called for Walton to receive credit for the wins. The broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy spent long portions of a nationally televised game demanding a change, and Kerr has strongly advocated for his assistant in interviews. But a change in the policy had the potential to create some messy situations. For Walton to receive credit for wins was one thing, but to saddle other interim coaches with losses might have been seen as unfair, especially if they were filling in for far shorter stretches.
Even if the league had changed the policy, a source confirmed there was little consideration of going back through history to alter coaching records based on the use of interim coaches. By not changing, the N.B.A. avoids the potential for a major record upheaval, because Don Nelson, the N.B.A.’s coaching victories leader, received credit for at least 10 wins in games coached by an interim replacement. Nelson’s lead over Lenny Wilkens for career wins is three, and an in-depth examination of both of their records could have resulted in a change at the top.
That issue now tabled and a new honor added to his lighter-than-it-should-be coaching résumé, Walton will go back about the business of preparing the Warriors to try to push their record to 20-0 when they visit the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night. With Golden State seemingly showing no signs of slowing down in its pursuit of back-to-back titles, the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' record 33-game winning streak and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' all-time mark of 72 wins, and with Kerr's return date still uncertain, Walton could find again find himself in the running for the prize come December's end. Consecutive Coach of the Month awards wouldn't be too bad for a guy who hasn't won anything, huh?
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