The Case For NBA Coach Of The Year

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As the NBA’s 2014-15 regular season winds down, so do the various award races including “Coach of the Year.”

While a number of candidates stand out, a first-time head coach is the prohibitive favorite.

No, Derek Fisher of the New York Knicks will not earn the honor as a rookie with his 14-58 squad of futility.

Steve Kerr is the prohibitive favorite, with the 58-13 Golden State Warriors having the best record in the NBA.

Kerr was heavily recruited by his former coach, but he turned down Phil Jackson and the Knicks to take the job closer to home on the West Coast in Oakland.

The Warriors have a loaded roster with players like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut.

Kerr has given important roles to Harrison Barnes, Marreese Speights, Shaun Livingston and Green.  He moved Andre Iguodala to the bench, which reinvigorated Barnes after a disappointing sophomore year.

Previous Warriors coach Mark Jackson helped instill a defensive mindset, something Kerr has welcomed and improved upon, while adding more motion to the team’s offense.  The Warriors share the ball, score an NBA-best 109.8 points a game, and yet still hold their opponents to 99.1 a night.

That’s a league-high point differential of 10.7.

Kerr still has to show he can take his team beyond a regular season to deep playoff success, but his first year in the league as a head coach has been remarkable.

Other contenders in the race for Coach of the Year include Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks, David Blatt (also a rookie) with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kevin McHale of the Houston Rockets and Dave Joerger of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Budenholzer may be Kerr’s greatest competition, taking the Hawks from what was “supposed” to be a middling Eastern Conference squad to first place with a 54-17 record.

Atlanta had four All-Stars in February but none are dominant on par with players like LeBron James or James Harden.  The Hawks play true team basketball, both offensively and defensively.

Blatt deserves credit for riding out what has been a tumultuous season with trades, injuries and potentially incompatible stars (Kevin Love, with Kyrie Irving and James).  The Cavaliers (47-26) are closing in on the Rockets (48-23) in the standings for fourth overall in the league and the Grizzlies (50-22) are still in range.

With Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones both dealing with injury for most of the season, McHale has kept his team in contention for a top-four seed in the West.  Harden has had an MVP-caliber season, but McHale deserves plenty of the credit as well.

Finally, Joerger has Memphis at 50 wins with 10 to play.  This may be the Grizzlies’ best chance to win a title.  In Joerger’s second year as the head coach, the Grizzlies continue to be a defensive beast while nearing 100 points a game offensively (98.9).

Honorable mention for Coach of the Year includes Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs) and Tom Thibodeau (Chicago Bulls), as it’s a mistake to leave them off the list.  Popovich may be the best active coach in the game.  Thibodeau works his players hard, and always seems to get results.