Do you have to have the best record in the league? Do you have to defy the preseason odds of your team not making the playoffs? Must you overcome the absence of injured star players? Like most awards in the NBA, there are no standard guidelines as to why someone deserves votes moreso than others, and this makes it rather difficult for the writers to determine who the very best ought to be.
It was announced early Wednesday that Denver Nuggets coach George Karl would be the recipient of the elusive award for the 2012-2013 season. Is he deserving? Absolutely. It’s hard to believe that Karl has never won the award in his 25 years as a coach, and he did quite a job in leading his team to 57 wins – third best in the talent-heavy Western Conference.
That said, were there others that were just as deserving of the award, if not more? The answer has to be a yes, although again, no one has set any rules to justify any of it.
Most were shocked by Tom Thibodeau’s eighth-place finish, and rightfully so. Without Derrick Rose and the litany of injuries Thibodeau saw the team go through, it’s pretty remarkable that the Chicago Bulls still managed to win 45 games. When a team is able to win games regardless of the personnel on the court, that’s mostly on the coach and his philosophies.
Kevin McHale, who finished ninth, also deserved better recognition for finding a way to win 45 games with a group of unproven players. He allowed the Houston Rockets to play a certain style and minimized the deficiencies of his team (lack of presence at power forward) by exposing other teams on the defensive end more than they could against him.
Coaches like Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra did a marvelous job with their respective teams, but given the talent they had to work with, they were expected to be very good. Unless you exceed the expected greatness of the team you have, it’s tough to win COY.
Everyone goes into a particular season with certain expectations, based on the lineups that are set in place. The expectations for Golden State were this: it had the potential to be a playoff team, but not if Andrew Bogut or Stephen Curry suffer injuries. Bogut, in particular, was supposed to be a game-changer with his defensive presence. We’ve already seen enough of the Warriors over the years to know that they weren’t going to win games without defense. Without Bogut, there was no reason to expect essentially the same group that went 23-43 last season to have a chance this season. Sure, they added some veterans in Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, but that wasn’t going to address the defensive issues. As we all know, complications arose with the Aussie’s surgically repaired ankle, forcing him to miss well over half the season.
Jackson, however, defied the odds and won 47 games. That number is incredible, given the circumstances and the turnaround from what they were last season. His defensive anchor (Bogut) was absent and not nearly as effective as expected when he did play. He saw the team’s best perimeter defender (Brandon Rush) go down with a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season. The team had two rookies in the starting lineup in Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, and they played like rookies for much of the season. He relied on David Lee to be a part of the “defensive-minded group,” when Lee may just be the worst defensive power forward in the league. I am a huge supporter of the Warriors, but if you told me these things would happen prior to the beginning of the season, I would have predicted no more than 34 wins for this team.
For these reasons, Jackson deserved the COY in my book. At the very least, he should have been in the top three. How he ended up seventh in the voting is beyond me. Here is what he and Curry had to say about the results, from Rusty Simmons of San Francisco Chronicle:
It doesn’t mean anything to me,” Jackson said at the team’s Wednesday morning shootaround. “I’ve just learned from Steph Curry. Congratulations, first of all, to George Karl – well deserved. Second of all, I do not do this and my team does not do this for any individual recognition. That being said, if I’m seventh, then Steph Curry is an All-Star, Steph Curry makes All-NBA and Harrison Barnes makes All-Rookie. I agree. It isn’t the coaching. It’s my guys. If I’m that, then my guys have to get the recognition that they rightfully deserve. But I don’t really care about that. I really don’t do it for that.” Curry actually informed his coach of the voting results on the bus ride to the AT&T Center for the workout.
“That’s too low for me,” Curry said. “I thought he was definitely a shoo-in for Coach of the Year. We’re a team that hasn’t tasted postseason success, and we’re in the second round after dealing with injuries all year. This is a hugely successful season for us, and obviously, we’re not done. His resume is pretty good in his second year to be in that conversation.” “He’s not going to change anything he’s doing. The recognition will come in due time. We understand who the Coach of the Year is to us. The reason why we’re preparing for Game 2 in the Western Conference semifinals is 100 percent because of coach’s plans and adjustments. We’re proud to have him lead us.”
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