Watson Rowe (LTNBA) – When we’re talking about Coach of the Year candidates one of the first names that pops up is always Gregg Popovich. Popovich is the longest tenured coach in the NBA having been with the San Antonio Spurs since 1996. His list of accomplishments include 3 Coach of the Year Awards, 5 NBA championships, and 20 consecutive winning seasons consistently working with one of the oldest roster in the league his success is undervalued.
But enough about the past we’re looking right now at the 2017-2018 NBA season. Many believe that the Spurs would not produce much when Kawhi Leonard went down early. But his record says otherwise.
Despite criticism and skepticism Popovich has the Spurs currently in third place in the western conference with a record 34 and 19 going into All Star break. He has key wins against OKC and the Cleveland Cavaliers this season without star player, Kawhi Leonard in the lineup.
Due to this success with a seriously aging roster, combined with his current record of 34-19 in a heavily stacked western conference, he has my vote as coach of the year.
Kevin Bertalotto (LTNBA) – The Miami Heat being a top 5 seed has certainly shocked many, especially when you consider that this squad missed the playoffs last year. Countless people thought their 30-11 run in the second half of last season was “luck” or “a fluke” but this season is proving otherwise.
Despite losing shooting guard Dion Waiters for the rest of the season, the Heat have managed to maintain a top 4 seeding in the Eastern Conference, sitting just a few wins behind the Cleveland Cavaliers in standings.
This is due to the genius of head coach Erik Spoelstra, (affectionately known as Spo to many Heat fans) and his ability to draw productive play from young players such as center Hassan Whiteside and small forward James Johnson, to make up for the production lost when Waiters fell to injury.
Now there is no question that there are other viable candidates for COY that can make a case for the award such as Boston’s Brad Stevens, Minnesota’s Tom Thibodeau (Thibs), San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich (Pop), and Toronto’s Dwane Casey.
However, there are several key differences between these coaches that make Spoelstra (Spo) a more worthy candidate.
Stevens may be a better coach and did lose Gordon Hayward but he does have two all-stars, one of which is an MVP Candidate (Kyrie Irving) while Spo has zero TRUE all stars.
It’s been 25 years since a team with a top 4 seeding has headed into the All Star Break without a single All Star.
By default Heat point guard Goran Dragic made the All Star Game (ASG) due to an injury suffered by Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, but in general Dragic is not an all-star.
Sure, Minnesota made a huge improvement from last year, and coach Thibs deserves credit, however he did add perennial All Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler from the Bulls and then free agent shooting guard Jamal Crawford, a perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate, during the off-season.
Coach Pop is always in the conversation for COY including this season, however his Spurs finished with the 2nd seed in the Western Conference last year, and are currently in position to finish third or lower in conference standings this year.
Coach Casey is leading his team to a great season however he does have two all-stars including a top 3 shooting guard and top 7 point guard.
All in all, with so many clutch plays assigned by Spo and the improvement from last season despite multiple injured players; transforming the Heat from a non-playoff team to the 4th seed in the conference in such a short time span, Erik Spoelstra deserves to be more recognized and this award is a start.