D’Antoni And Spoelstra Share NBCA Coach Of The Year


The National Basketball Coaches Association announced their pick(s) for their inaugural coach of the year award today: Mike D’Antoni and Eric Spoelstra.

D’Antoni and Spoelstra were chosen as the recipients of the award following a vote by the 30 head coaches in the league. This award carries a lot of authenticities because the winners were selected by their peers.

D’Antoni, in his first season coaching the Houston Rockets, led his new team in an inspired 55-win regular season and is currently battling the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semi-Finals – ascending past many low expectations for them this year. Bleacher Report, for one, projected the Rockets would only win 38 games before the season started. ESPN’s Forecast panel was a bit more optimistic, but still only predicted they would win 45.

Not many people were projecting the Rockets to even break.500, let alone be going punch for punch with the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs out West.

He’s done a masterful job converting James Harden, possibly the best two-guard in the league, into a point guard this season. Harden excelled under D’Antoni’s tutelage, similarly to Steve Nash in his first year under D’Antoni.

Harden led the league in assists per game this year with 11.19 assists per contest, according to basketball-reference.com. If you glance further down the list, you’ll find “Steve Nash” on the NBA’s season assists leaders list five times beginning in 2004-05 (D’Antoni and Nash’s first season together).

Keep in mind, Houston had such a spectacular season while trying to replace Dwight Howard, who’d been their starting center for the past three years.

Eric Spoelstra and the Miami Heat are familiar with losing a former All-NBA player, as this season was Spoelstra’s first season as a head coach without Dwyane Wade. And Wade isn’t just a former All-NBA talent, he’s a three-time NBA champion and one-time Finals MVP – that’s a huge void to fill, in the locker room and on the court.

The Heat had a remarkable season following an ugly 11-30 start. After they’d gotten 19 games under .500, they went on a sensational 21-4 run beginning in mid-January to make them playoff contenders.

Even before the season began, and they were off to a horrendous start, they weren’t projected to do well this year. ESPN’s Forecast panel projected the Heat would have a 36-46 record at the end of the regular season.

Granted, the Heat only finished 41-41, but Spoelstra had a plethora of injuries to compete with on top of losing the star talent that was “The Big 3”. Spoelstra kept his composure and showed that he learned a thing or two during his four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, and two title-winning seasons.

Goran Dragic proved he could be a reliable point guard for Miami, and Hassan Whiteside continued to blossom into a star in the league, leading the league in rebounds with 14.13 per game – again from basketball-reference.

The Heat was a tiebreaker away from making it into the playoffs this year; but instead, were beat out by the Chicago Bulls and their new shooting guard, Dwyane Wade.

Both D’Antoni and Spoelstra led their teams to exceed many people’s expectations for them, and this NBCA coach of the year award being given to the two of them will make it interesting to see if the NBA’s Coach of the Year voting pans out in a similar way.

Other coaches who received votes, according to The Virginian-Pilot, were Scott Brooks (Wizards), Jason Kidd (Bucks), David Fizdale (Grizzlies), Steve Kerr (Warriors), Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Doc Rivers (Clippers), and Quin Snyder (Jazz).

The NBA Coach of the Year award recipient won’t be announced until June 26th at the NBA Awards Show.

About Brandon Wentz

Mayor of the borough of Mt. Carbon, Pennsylvania. Disappointed fan of the Phoenix Suns. Humble narcissist. Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/thebighonch

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