NBA / May 25, 2010 / 11:00 am

The Curse Of The NBA Coach Of The Year Award

With yesterday’s firing of Mike Brown, who just last season was named the 2008-09 NBA Coach of the Year, it made me begin to think that winning the award could be more of a curse than a blessing. And after looking at the last five winners, you begin to see – as they say in the Twitterverse – a “trending topic.” Ever since the 2005-06 season, all the previous winners (except this year’s) were fired within the next two seasons. Check it out.

2005–06: Avery Johnson, Dallas Mavericks, 60–22 (Fired April 30, 2008)
2006–07: Sam Mitchell, Toronto Raptors, 47–35 (Fired December 3, 2008)
2007–08: Byron Scott, New Orleans Hornets, 56–26 (Fired November 12, 2009)
2008–09: Mike Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers, 66–16 (Fired May 24, 2010)
2009–10: Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder, 50–32 (???)

If the award is suppose to be given to the best Coach in the NBA, or at least the one who has done the best job that season, why do they lose their jobs so quickly? I think the problems – in most of these scenarios – are the expectations. The franchise immediately begins to have a false sense of where they are headed, and some of these franchises believe that they are now Championship contenders and don’t allow time for their team to grow.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that coaches should be recognized, but these franchises/GM’s need to not look solely at the coach as an immediate scapegoat for a team not living up to instant expectations. And in all honesty, for Jerry Sloan to never have been named “the best coach in the NBA” makes me re-think the credibility and validity of the award altogether. I just hope that this trend doesn’t continue, and if so, good luck to Scott Brooks and the Thunder…

What do you think? Why do NBA Coach of the Year award winners get fired so quickly thereafter?

Follow Rey on Twitter at @reyrey33.

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  • Mike S

    Every award voted by the media is a joke. The media likes to reward teams/players/coaches that they didn’t expect to be in the running prior to the season. They need to be rewarding consistency. Jerry Sloan, Greg Popovich, and Phil Jackson need to be voted in the top 5 every single year.

  • The Other Aj

    Waiting for “Top of the World” to post a racist black coach comment…

  • matt

    really good article rey…

  • Joe’s Momma

    Maybe thats why the NBA never gave Sloan the award even though he was more than qualified a bunch of times.

    NBA doesn’t want him to get fired. Maybe the year before Sloan “retires” he will win it.

    What a sham of an award. I mean Sam Mitchell in 07? I love what Scott Brooks has done in OKC, but he won it this year? His team got the 8th seed in the west. Yes they won 50 games but look at how talented that roster is. They are filled with lottery picks.

    What about SVG this year? he did an amazing job. What about McMillan who played with half his roster this year. What about Alvin Gentry?

    For Brooks sake, lets hope OKC doesn’t fire this guy when they win 60 games and then the best player decides he wants to take an early vacation to make some movies.

  • jryu

    you hit the nail on the head when you say the award is all about expectations.

    the problem with this award is that it isn’t given to the nba’s best coach that year. it’s given to the coach that exceeds THAT year’s expectations. that’s why there hasn’t been a back to back winner or even 2 in 3 years winner in a long time…

    if you’re expected to win 60 games and you win 60 games, you’re basically not even considered for the award. but expected to win 30, and win 40 instead, you win? how does that work….

  • @

    I totally agree that the problem is not the coach, but the expectations put on him. It has become an award for coaches that overachieve and exceed expectations, usually with a young and talented, but unrefined squad.

    The problem with that is that those same squads are usually immature and inconsistent (like the Bulls, Raptors, and next year possibly the Thunder). So in the next season when they come back down to reality, they are considered underachievers or not playing up to their potential; when that’s not really the case, they just played ABOVE it the previous year. So the coach is blamed and becomes a victim of his own prior success.

    More consideration really should be given to the steady, consistently good coaches, but the current reality is that there will always be at least one overachieving team that will get the temporary spotlight for that season.

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/703154723/the-soulchorea-project?pos=1 Kermit The Washington

    Yeah, to get this award, you basically have to be the coach of the “hot team of the moment”, which is why Phil’s days of being considered for it are over, as well as Jerry Sloan (unless they give him a “mercy award” next season).

  • @

    Maybe they should create a “Coach of the last decade” award, but give it out every year (so each year a slightly different span of years is taken into account).

    If that were the case, the coaches who performed the most consistently well and continued to keep their team contenders would be rewarded. Maybe a span of 5 years or so would be better, but “Coach of the last five years” just doesn’t roll off the tongue very well.

  • s.bucketz

    “coach of the last decade” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue either…
    Pat Riley is gunna bye some shares in OKC or some shit and end up bootin Scott Brooks somehow in a couple years and take over as coach

  • s.bucketz

    “coach of the last decade” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue either…
    Pat Riley is gunna buy some shares in OKC or some shit and end up bootin Scott Brooks somehow in a couple years and take over as coach


    Team underachieves – coach gets fired
    Team overachieves – coach is a COTY candidate
    Neither of those two things have anything to do with a coaches ability to coach a team, if it did then PJ, Sloan and Pop would win it every year.
    they should change the name of it to the “oh shit this team did better than we thought they would, lets reward them somehow” award. then they should introduce a new award that only coaches have a vote on.

  • egypt

    The problem lies in the name of the award… it doesn’t translate to what the association gives it out for

    Coach of the most unexpected improved wins from last year award commonly known as the COTMUIWFLY award

  • Rey J

    thanks for the luv @Matt

  • Robert

    They should call it the outlier award.

    As mentioned in other posts, the team that over-achieves the most, the coach gets an award, but when they come back from the outlier season, the coach gets canned.

    Ladies and gentlemen – The Outlier Award!

    Also, if you could pick one coach to coach your favorite team with hopes of a championship, I don’t think a COY would ever be picked.

  • Mark

    yo man that was a great article…. and an intresting theory, but I think that if you look at the records following several of those coaches (Bryon Scott, and Sam Mitchell to be precise) it seems that the players had given up on these coaches following the season that they won the award. In the case of Avery Johnson it was more of his own doing … See Morethan (wanting front office control) the players giving up on him. an finnaly in Mike Brown’s instanse he was just a scapegoat for the Cavs no show in the playoffs as a way to try and please the crybaby known as LeBron James. I honestly think that Scott Brooks shouldn’t have the same issues as the previous coaches because of the fact that he has a young team that has been constantly improving year in and year out.
    I’m also willing to go out on and say that I think that Mike Brown will be able to get a job faster than his award winning predicessors

  • Nigel

    You forgot about Mike D’Antoni…

  • Rey J

    thanks @mark n @nigel for the luv

  • Jskillz

    even better indicator…most of the above had either the MVP of the league or a top three player (unsure of bosh in 06-07)…so the best coaches in the league need the best players in the league too? Pretty sure it’s the player not the coach who’s responsible for all those wins. Coach of the year should go to either Phil Jackson, Popovich, and Jerry Sloan, maybe you can throw George Karl in the mix, but no one else.

  • W. Z

    this is me or does this seems like it was copy and pasted from somewhere

  • http://www.chrisnungesser.com Chris

    Completely agree. Great article. Coach of the Year is basically awarded to the coach who had very low expectations and performed admirably.

    The most obvious example is Phil Jackson. He’s been an NBA head coach since the 1989-1990 season (didn’t coach during the 1998-1999 season). His teams have made the playoffs every year – currently the Lakers are in the Conference Championships. He’s won a record 10 NBA titles; at one point winning nine titles in 11 years. And he has only one Coach of the Year Award. He won for in 1996 for the 72 win season.

    The Coach of the Year “curse” goes all the way back to 1987.

  • Heckler

    NBA coach of the year has been the biggest BULLSHIT award of all time.

    it NEVER goes to the coach that actually has done the best coaching job: communicating with his players, get the most out of his team, winning games, having a strategy, teaching vets (its easy to teach young players–hard to teach vets. even larry browns overrated ass cant teach vets shit), provide an identity for the team and franchise, has his team consistently play hard and inspired, build up confidence in assistant coaches etc…

    and the other BULLSHIT of the award is having the media vote. the media should NOT vote for any award. sports writers are biased and dont know shit about coaches and players in other cities and locker rooms; therefore, the cannot vote accordingly.

    a sports writer in atlanta has NO FUCKING idea what is going on at a practice, film session, huddle or locker room in phoenix. a writer in seattle dont know shit about philly. and so on and so on….

    if media/sports writers DIDNT vote, then you’d get more deserving appropriate winners.

    the way it is now, sports writers just vote for the coach that did the most surprised job of the season.

    and GMs fire the coach waaaaay to soon.

    Chuck Daly didnt win in the NBA finals until 1989.
    but he was coaching that team in 1985…and they were making the playoffs. Detroit aint fire him just because they got bounced in the playoffs early every year. they kept with him and allowed the team to grow with their coach and the result….3 consecutive trips to the nba finals!!

  • eazy yeezy

    Jerry Sloan:
    Fantastic coach, mentor and teacher of the game.
    2 NBA Finals appearances..but no rings (thanks to Jordan)


    I personally dont think so- but I’m wondering what everyone else here thinks.
    Is he up there with Phil and Popps?

  • Braden

    Absolutely Sloan is up there with Jackson and Pops. I’ll even mention Pat Reily. Those 4, in my eyes, are the only elite coaches for the past decade and a half at least.

    21 seasons as head coach, 1 losing season and 18 playoff appearances. It’s just a damn shame his team had to play against Jordan.

  • surfnaked

    interesting article dime

  • Dem Coltz

    So most commenters disagree with the article.

    The “COY” curse in which the coach gets fired after winning isn’t so much the case of new expectations as it is a general flaw in the logic of voters – they don’t give it to the best coach in the league, they give it to the coach whose team exceeded expectations the most. None of those coaches on the list of fired COY are “great”. The author is correct that once a franchise improves to a higher level, expectations are increased. When the coach can’t keep up with the new expectations and max out the potential of their team they are fired soon after, because the prime of a team is short and owners want to win rings, so they try to get the best coach they can after the last coach obviously couldn’t take the team that is now good and make them great. The reason so many COY are fired quickly isn’t new expectations or the fault of owners blaming coaches and not players – it’s that the former COY were not actually great coaches, they were able to make a bad team good, but they can’t make a good team great, so while the owner has a chance to max out the current team of players he wants to find someone who can make them great which the so called COY couldn’t. The true COY should be one who can maintain consistent greatness, and make teams better bad to good, good to great. But in truth, these coaches already have a COY, called NBA championships.

    The award right now is basically a “most improved team”.

  • Rey J

    Great points @Dem Colt and thanks for the post @surfnaked

  • Christopher Blake

    Why does it seem all the Black coaches have been fired! lmfao