The NBA Coach of the Year was a close call, and the voters got this one right. Just barely, though.
In a year in which there were many viable candidates for the NBA Coach of the Year — and probably sexier picks than the machine-like Hawks — Mike Budenholzer was head and shoulders above the competition. Coach Bud landed 67-of-130 first place votes, good for 513 points (Steve Kerr was second with 471).
Gregg Popovich did what he does with the Spurs every year. Kevin McHale took a team with James Harden and not much else to the two-seed in a loaded Western Conference. Jason Kidd and Brad Stevens led projected lottery teams (that were expected to be “tanking”) to impressive playoff births. And, of course, Steve Kerr racked up 67 wins in his first year on the Warriors’ sideline.
Kerr was Budenholzer’s real competition, seeing he was able to take a roster that Mark Jackson had and coach it to its full potential. But the talent that GSW has made a first place finish realistic even though it may not have been expected.
A first place finish for the Hawks was not realistic.
Ask anyone before the season what the Hawks were and the answer was a fringe playoff team. Maybe we see them somewhere around the eight-seed like we did last year, maybe we see them picking in the lottery. Their lack of a star will prevent them from having any success.
But it’s a regular season award, and nobody blew away expectations like Budenholzer and the Hawks. Derrick Rose was returning to the Bulls and The King was coming home to Cleveland. Surely one of those two teams were going to finish as the top two seeds in the east.
Instead, Coach Bud and his Spurs-like blueprint helped the Hawks not only win the east by seven games, but finish with a franchise record 60 victories. Their “lack of a star” resulted in four of their players playing in the All-Star game, and, even more impressive, their entire starting lineup sharing an Easter Conference Player of the Month Award. And now ask anyone if they’ll experience success in the playoffs and you’ll probably get the same doubters.
In a league where the voters made the wrong choice in deciding on Lou Williams over Isaiah Thomas for Sixth Man, and will likely make the sexy pick for MVP in Stephen Curry over the more deserving James Harden, it’s nice to see a behind the scenes guy like Bud get rewarded. The man has four rings as an assistant with the Spurs, and still, nobody knows who he is.
Hopefully this award starts to turn some heads.
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