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NBA / Apr 5, 2010 / 1:28 pm

The Real NBA Coach of the Year will get snubbed in 2010

photo. The Oregonian

Even more than MVP, the Coach of the Year award needs a criteria makeover. Because while it’s kind of ridiculous in retrospect that Shaq only has one MVP when he was the most dominant game-changing basketball player in the NBA for several years, it’s patently ridiculous that Jerry Sloan was never deemed the best coach in the League over any of his two decades-plus run in Utah while continually placing his team in the title contending picture.

As of today, the Coach of the Year criteria is something like this: If the media thought your team wasn’t going to be any good, but the team was good, you’re a Coach of the Year candidate. Bonus points if the fans/coaches only voted one (or none) of your players into the All-Star Game. The whole award is based around proving, once again, that the media doesn’t know what it’s talking about as much as we think we do.

In a DimeMag.com poll over the weekend asking which Western Conference coach deserved C.O.Y., Oklahoma City’s Scott Brooks got an overwhelming 40 percent of the vote among six candidates, while in the East version of the poll, Milwaukee’s Scott Skiles got the most votes. In all likelihood, Brooks will win the official award.

Why? Because everybody assumed the Thunder would, if not outright stink, at least still be in “making progress” mode rather than a legit playoff team. And not to downplay what Brooks has done, but how people who don’t watch OKC play every game can really tell you what coaching moves Brooks has made to guide his team to where they are? Isn’t it more the case that Kevin Durant became one of the five best players in the League, and Russell Westbrook cracked the list of elite point guards? Isn’t this year’s OKC success more of a credit to the players and GM Sam Presti than Brooks’ X’s-and-O’s on the bench?

Meanwhile, in Portland, Nate McMillan has been the most deserving Coach of the Year candidate that isn’t getting as much credit as he should. And the main reason he won’t win C.O.Y. is because the media predicted the Blazers would be good this year anyway. The fact that they are good, but not in the West’s Top-5 like most predicted, actually works against McMillan.

After losing his top two centers (Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla) to season-ending injuries relatively early in the schedule, McMillan had to — before the team was able to pick up Marcus Camby at the trade deadline — devise strategy to keep the Blazers in the playoff picture while playing 56-year-old Juwan Howard and little-used youngsters Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph in the post alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, who needs a tough-guy banger next to him to be most effective.

McMillan had to get Andre Miller, who appeared to be a mistake of a signing in training camp when he reportedly clashed with coaches and teammates, to play along with the system. He had to figure out when to play the veteran ‘Dre (who made it clear he sees himself as an NBA starting point guard and nothing less) as the lead guard and when to hand over the reigns to Brandon Roy, who is used to the role of running Portland’s offense in crunch time. And as the injuries piled up and even B-Roy got nicked up a bit, McMillan had to figure out how to best keep his star player from also physically falling apart while still trying to win games.

McMillan had to juggle playing time between a cast of small forwards — Rudy Fernandez, Martell Webster, Nic Batum — who are all young, who all want to play, and who have a diverse set of skills, and manage to keep them all happy and buying into the system. Keeping Rudy’s tendency to jack shots in check was one hurdle, and McMillan had success playing Webster as his defensive stopper at times during the season, although the book on Webster said he was little more than a spot-up shooter.

Through all the injuries, potential chemistry landmines, personnel juggling and higher expectations (a real factor with a young team like Portland), it’s an astounding feat that McMillan has still guided his team to the playoffs in the tough Western Conference, even if it is as an 8-seed.

But will he be rewarded with the Coach of the Year trophy he clearly deserves? Probably not, because he was supposed to get Portland here anyway. The Blazers are who we thought they were, a playoff team with 1.5 “star” players who either gets KO’d in the first or second round. Maybe if the Blazers stink next year, then make it back to the playoffs in 2012, Nate will have his shot.

Who do you think should be NBA Coach of the Year?

Follow Austin on Twitter at @AustinBurton206
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag

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  • Zers

    Don’t forget that Batum got hurt and had shoulder surgery in training camp.

  • http://www.slcdunk.com Amar / All that Jazz

    solid arguments could be made for a number of coaches in the L. I agree that the award is now “guy with crappy team but one really awesome player who wins more games than they were supposed to” instead of straight up coaching.

    with the thunder are we celebrating brooks’ coaching, or celebrating their GM and front office with stockpiling good, young, talent that’s meshing right now? if anyone really think brooks is a great coach then I have some “Mike Brown Coaching like a Champion” DVDs to sell. how good would those two guys be without LeBron or Durant on their team?

    Sloan once coached a team to the west playoffs when his best players were Raja Bell, Carlos Arroyo and Mikki Moore. (They were like 1 game out) That’s the opposite of what Brooks is experiencing — and the opposite result (Sloan didn’t win it that year, or any year as you pointed out).

  • sh!tfaced

    3 of the last 5 COY winners were fired.

    Damn right the COY needs a major criteria makeover. It’s as shallow as a high school prom king and queen popularity contest.

  • http://www.dailyemerald.com/sports The Hemogoblin

    Also don’t forget that the Blazers had to sign extra players for a time because the roster was so thin. At one point, over half of the team was out.

  • ron ron

    I’m with you all the way on this one… But can we throw Larry Brown in the mix for C.O.Y!!

  • http://www.couriernewculture.blogspot.com Travis

    I’m a Blazers dork. Watched all but 3 games this season, love the team, appreciate the coach. Nate’s a good coach. But he doesn’t deserve COY.

    From a distance, yeah, it’s easy to put all of these factors together and say that Nate deserves COY. But this team should be even better than it is right now. They’re squeaking by average teams too often, and getting blasted by teams like the Nuggets and Utah. They’ve got an outside shot of winning a playoff series if they play Dallas, maybe a bit of hope against Phoenix, but that’s it. LA, Denver, and Utah will crush my Blazers, I’m afraid. That doesn’t need to be the case. In spite of all the injuries this season, the Blazers have an impressive group of players willing and able to play together. What’s holding them back? Hmm. I won’t say it’s all Nate, for sure, but he’s got a lot to prove yet for me to totally accept his philosophy on offense. The Blazers aren’t getting the most out of the talent they have, not yet, but I do realize this is still a young team outside of Miller, Camby, and Howard.

    Recently, the beat Sacramento in a game that was closer than it should have been. Blown out in Denver where Miller kept them in it (Miller should not have to be keeping the Blazers in any game). Won in OKC, but that’s what should happen there. Lost in Phoenix. Beat the Wiz at the last second.

    And going back further, Nate started Steve Blake over Miller. Created a lot of drama in that situation, stupid, stupid drama. This team should already have 50 wins, and would if Nate wasn’t being so thick to start the season. Then Nate allowed Brandon back too early and lost him for an additional two weeks with the hamstring injury mid-season.

    With the front office an apparent mess, I’m not sure who is really responsible for bringing in Marcus Camby, but if it’s KP, then he’s executive of the year.

    Okay, this is quite a rambling pile of crap I’ve written here, you’re thinking. So I’ll end: Nate has done a good job overall this season, bringing together new parts to approach 50 wins and get into the playoffs. But he’s not the best coach in the league this year. That’s Sloan, or Brooks, or Skiles. Rumors circulated recently that Nate and his staff were on the hot seat in Portland. Surprising. I won’t go that far re: Nate. But his staff, Dean in particular, was frustrated and confused at times this season with the minuets being distributed at PG (I’m thinking east coast trip, while Nate was out with his own injury).

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Nope. The reason why the Blazers were supposed to be good this year wasn’t because B-Roy, LMA, or Oden were top 5 players at their positions.

    It’s because they had depth at every single position. If you’re going to TAKE some credit away from Brooks because his team’s strength was the singular talent of Durant, you can’t GIVE credit to McMillan because his team’s strength was their depth.

  • The Journeyman

    Larry Brown

    Larry Brown

    Larry Brown

    (and Flip Saunders :) )

  • http://dimemag.com panchitoooo

    nates the man, no doubt about it. the only reason why the blazers were set to do so good this year was because of his coaching last year and the team beginning to gel under his program even with the on and off play of oden. so with odens potencial, aldridges IQ and jumper improving, b roys leadership skills starting to shine, przybilla being przybilla, andre miller starting to get his groove back, and all the young players coming off the bench making a positive effort and the return of webster its hard to say they wouldnt do good or make it to the playoffs this year. but things didnt go as planned or how the media drew it up. oden never came back or he did and actually hurt the team rather than helped it. aldridges jumper has been off this season from the games that ive watched. b roy is coming off an injury and that always effects your confidence and ability to take over games. przybilla cant be przybilla if hes in a suit on the bench. the only bright side is the play of andre miller and his connection to bring what nate is preaching in the locker room to the court. and i think the most important part of him winning the COY is his influence on his young talent and making sure they know they’re role to win at this level, which cant be easy cause then every young team would make it to the playoffs easy. the blazers alway play tough, with a go hard or go home mentallity and that can only come from good coaching and a great leader of men

  • Bizz

    While it is true that the COY is pretty much judged on “your team is supposed to stink, but somehow it pulled together and is a legit playoff presence”, you still can’t take away the fact that your team, if it is supposed to flat out stink, due to lack of talent, locker room issues, injuries, or whatever impactful reason, didn’t stink, and usually that’s because of good coaching/execution. If you have a team that on paper is supposed to excel, and it does, is that supposed to indicate that the coach of that team is well beyond his peers? Case in point, Mike Brown. Didn’t he win the COY with LeBron and a 1-4 iso set all season last year? How hard is it to go “LeBron, go to the top of the key, the other 4 of you, get the f*** out of his way” and not expect to get some results? Half of us on the forums are capable of being coach of the year material under those guidelines, for the simple fact we can call those plays in NBA 2K10 LMAO. Yea Durant is a beast, but they play in the West and have been defeating top teams as well consistently to warrant a COY for Brooks. The best thing to do honestly, to avoid any complaints, is just to give it to Sloan, since he’s more than worthy and deserving of the award, that way nobody can make a valid claim to say Sloan didn’t earn the award, he’s had to deal with Boozer’s contract issue, AK’s injuries, Deron FINALLY got an all-star bid, and the team runs so efficiently from start to finish.

  • blazerchic

    travis,
    you’re right. that was a pile of crap you wrote.

  • JH

    Jerry Sloan – Utah Jazz

  • oww

    i agree austin. im predicting that when the bulls get a shiny new free agent this summer, Vinny Del Negro will be a top candidate for the 2011 award

  • the cynic

    isn’t Scott Brooks the one developing these young guys at such a rapid pace? I don’t he fit the mold of shit team becomes decent.

    Shaq has only 1 MVP because plays 60 games a year

    Nate McMillan has been good, though I thought he waited way too long to bench Blake for Miller. I understand the thinking that Miller wasn’t going to play well with ROY, but you have to try and give it some time. Instead it never happened until the team was decimated by injuries, showing the limitations Nate put on this team by stubbornly coaching his system instead of trying something to maximize the talent they had

  • brado

    Jerry Sloan should be given COY simply based off life-time achievement. Not may have accomplished what he has, and with such consistency.

    But further, he should be given the COY based off his success this season. Going into this season the Jazz were expected to be a good, not great team. Well they started off a bad team, became a good team, and are now entering the playoffs a great team.

    Look at the team he is coaching. Outside of D-Will he has a bunch of 2nd round/undrafted players winning big. They have dealt with major and non-stop issues all season. Had to quell the problem of having a Boozer in the locker room – which I have to believe was difficult at the beginning of the season. He has trusted an undrafted rookie to be his starting SG.

    We could go on with the battles he has fought this season and the success he has seen. Give the man what he deserves.

  • http://www.nba.com JB

    Actually, the word “criteria” is plural.

  • joe bloe

    okay thunder lovers you have to break this down for what it is. For those of you making the case “well brooks DID take a losing team and make it legit so he DOES deserve it…austin” you have to think back a little bit. Remember around this time last year all of the buzz around the thunder? Not for playoff contention but because of their “bright future” and “limitless potential”. Many times I had to shut off sportscenter and nba tv because I got soooo sick of hearing about this team that wasn’t even playoff bound. That said, coming into this year I didn’t expect okc to be a pushover team. I mean it’s not like they were “wizards” status coming in. ALSO…. Brooks has only had to deal with THREE, yes THREE total games worth of injuries to this point. Mcmillan has had to coach through almost THREE HUNDRED combined missed games of injuries…yet portland is only 1.5 games behind okc. Durant cancels out roy…westbrook cancels out aldridge…sefolosha cancels out batum…so talent wise they are closely matched. One coach has had a rainbows and lollipops kind of ride this season, while the other has lived a nightmare. BROOKS HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL WITH INCREDIBLE TALENT….MCMILLAN HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL WITH SPARE PARTS FROM THE LEFTOVERS BIN. Nate M. for COY.

  • Gerard

    The thing about Brooks is you have to look at how the Thunder have turned things around since he took over for _______.

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Powerslave

    LeBron for coach of the year

  • wow

    Ok, the problem is that the criteria changes every year. If we’re using the “that team was supposed to stink, but they don’t” criteria in annointing Brooks to COY, then why didn’t Nate McMillan win LAST YEAR!? You know, when Portland was supposed to be another lottery team, or at the very least a very distant 8th seed, only to end up with homecourt advantage in the playoffs and 54 wins. Nevermind what happened in the playoffs last year (the same thing that will happen to OKC this year). McMillan deserved it last year. I don’t know that he absolutely deserves it this year, but he should be in the discussion.

  • Arno

    So Jerry Sloan will be a HOF without being COY ? Quite funny!
    Popovitch was excellent at making us believe the Spurs were finished, but forgot to tell Manu.
    Jackson coached Kobe, Artest, Odom and Gasol and they played team offense (sometimes) and never fought in the lockerroom, which is a great achievement.
    And if you think about developping young talent, what about Woodson ?

  • http://dimemag.com/2010/01/daily-fantasy-diagnosis-1-20/#more-30658 Mike

    It took this guy bout half of the season just to start Dre I’m just saying

  • the cynic

    @arno

    it took Woodson six years to get J-Smoove to stop shooting 3 pointers, that’s terrible coaching. Marvin Williams still doesn’t know what he should be doing on offense because there is none. Only Horford has really developed and he came into the NBA already armed for battle

  • Jason

    I am just wondering if you would consider Rick Alderman for coach of the year? I know the team will miss the playoffs but he is keeping his team 500 with the lack of there bigger talent gone and Tmac not playing. There are alot of coaches that could win this.

  • Bill Jargon

    OKC THUNDER’S SCOTT BROOKS COACH OF THE YEAR!