Summer Dreaming: Coach Of The Year


HANG TIME, Texas — It’s summertime and that means that all NBA coaches are undefeated. They have sunny forecasts for their new lineups, hot plans for training camp and picture nothing but blue skies for the 2013-14 season openers that will tip off in less than three months.

But let’s face it. Some of these men won’t make it to the February trade deadline. A couple could get the ax before Christmas. Then again, we can count on the cream of the crop to get the most out of their teams.

So let’s go right to next April and figure these are the five most likely to be filling my Coach of the Year Award ballot:

Erik Spoelstra, Heat — There is not a more thankless job in the NBA than being coach of the best team with best player. Oh sure, you get the championship rings and a nice paycheck, but not all the respect that’s deserved and certainly very few of these awards. Even though Phil Jackson’s teams won a record 11 titles in Chicago and Los Angeles, the Zen Master was named Coach of the Year only once (1996). Now it’s Spoelstra who’s getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment, as if he’s only around to be shoved aside by LeBron James when things occasionally get uncomfortable. However, it’s more than just filling out the lineup card and rolling the balls onto the court when your team has won back-to-back championships, been to The Finals three years in a row and had a historic 27-game winning streak. When the Heat check in with the best regular-season record again in April and embark on their quest for a three-peat, Spoelstra should finally get his due.

Doc Rivers, Clippers — All the time, energy and talks that went into getting Rivers to make the coast-to-coast jump will be proven worth it when this loose bunch of talent learns what it means to play with a purpose every night. Suddenly Clippers brass will be wondering why they wasted time tap-dancing the past two seasons with Vinny Del Negro rather than bringing in an elite-level coach to transform the Staples Center sideshow from Lob City carny act into a real contender in the West. Despite the summer on-court improvements by the Rockets and Warriors, L.A.’s upgrade on the bench will make a bigger difference. Maybe not in terms of wins (56) from last year, but attitude, poise and, eventually, playoff performance.

Tom Thibodeau, Bulls — If you had to cast him as a great movie character from the past, Thibodeau would be the Black Knight from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. Playing the entire season without MVP Derrick Rose? ‘Tis but a scratch. Losing Luol Deng and getting Joakim Noah banged up in the playoffs? Just a flesh wound. The Bulls just keep grinding, because Thibs keeps grinding. He’s a no-excuses guy who believes in defense and competing and can get that message across to his players. The only question about him is why it took so long for somebody to recognize Thibodeau as more than just an excellent assistant coach. Now, hopefully, he’s got Rose back at full strength — left-footed dunks included — and that means Chicago is back to being more than just a streak-busting bane in the existence of the two-time defending champions. The Bulls are in the hunt because Thibodeau will never let them lose the scent.

Gregg Popovich, Spurs — You just can’t have a list of the top coaches in any NBA season without including Pop. He’s the dean of the fraternity — in fact, the longest-tenured coach in any major North American sport — and the truth is we could just give it to him every year and retire the trophy. So Tim Duncan pops back up with an All-NBA first team performance last season at age 37, Tony Parker continues to blossom and reach new heights at 31, the Spurs come within a 30-second mental breakdown of winning their fifth championship in June and the world acts like they’d found an elixir of youth. The truth is the Spurs simply keep drinking Popovich’s Kool-Aid and continue to defy anyone who annually predicts their demise. When the real Western Conference contenders line up for the start of the playoffs next April, he’ll have the Spurs there again.

Mike Brown, Cavaliers — The last two seasons that Brown walked the sidelines in Cleveland, his teams won 66 and 61 games — both the highest totals in the NBA — and yet it wasn’t good enough. Brown earned Coach of the Year honors in 2009, but because the Cavs with LeBron James couldn’t bring home the real hardware — the Larry O’Brien Trophy for a championship — he was shown the door. How interesting that now he’s back and could get considerable recognition and even win this award again just for getting a young Cavs team out of the lottery and into the playoffs. Brown was out of his element in that Lakers experience, but being back in Cleveland will put his thumbprint on the defense and produce enough of an upbeat season to maybe even get LeBron looking back home again as a free agent in the summer of 2014.

PREVIOUSLY: Sixth Man of the Year | Defensive Player of Year | Most Improved Player | Rookie Of Year

Send me your picks.


  1. Mark says:

    Where’s Mark Jackson?

  2. Lemsip says:

    What about Frank Vogel?? The Pacers are one of the best defensive teams and he’s grown the starting 5 from a crop of average/good prospects to a powerhouse. And now that Larry Bird has given him a bench to work with, they’ll blow by the heat/ knicks/ nets.

  3. MiamiNative says:

    I think Spoestra is the best coach. You all saw what happened when Brown and D’Antoni tried to coach 3 superstars. Spoestra had a team full of scrubs in 2009-2010 but still made the playoffs those years. He goes hrougho so much critism. Yes he was an apprentice to Riley but know who else was, Frank Vogel, and Im sure all of you think he’s a good coach.

  4. marty says:

    Spo is definitelydeserving of the coach of the year award. it is not easy task to coach the team he’s coaching and have this s success

  5. vernon says:

    @ac- I hear you! Woodson should be mentioned more than he is. The way the Knicks improved since he’s taken over has to honor more credit. He took a bunch of old injury ridden players and a ballhog superstar and won the eastern division.He took a knuclehead and turned him into 6 man of the year. He has that ballhog superstar trusting teammates and playing defense. At one time every main tool on the team was out at the same time having to run with “D” league players and rookies, all of which were old. They were the oldest team in the league. Tibbs is a very good coach but he was only missing one star player. Mark Jackson also was dismissed. Mike Brown hasn’t even got on the court yet,

  6. FunnyURL says:

    to those STUPID PEOPLE who says Riley is coaching the HEAT.. wow! is Riley some kind of a PSYCHIC that can dictate his team from 3 rows away of the bench? how can he do that? how can he tell to Spo to make plays in crucial seconds? how can he tell Spo to shout on his player and do the adjustment… if Riley can all do this.. he’s no t only a coach.. he’s also a great Psychic out ranking Professor Xavier from X-MEN…

  7. Blanquies says:

    So…where is the best coach of last season in the list?? The Nuggets executive team is just crazy…

  8. OKC says:

    “And secondly, people hating New Yorkers has nothing to do with the Knicks, Nets, or any other sports team. It has to do with them feeling insecure about living in Oshkosh, Cleveland, Des Moines, or some other lame town. You can’t compete with NYC!
    Sorry, its just the truth and you know it.” – AC

    ^This is why people hate New Yorkers/New York.

    I personally love NY.

  9. Menz says:

    @Queen James; Please check this site and 2007-2008 Miami Heat roster is better with Riley as coach with 15-67 win-loos record and 2008-2009 roster with Spo as coach has 43-39 record. I think many are still not willing to face the fact that Riley is a great coach but he saw a younger and greater coach in Spo.

  10. CSharma says:

    Why is Mark Jackson being overlooked he should have been a contender last year bringing his warriors to that stellar record and getting the second best improvement without blockbuster trades, or anything really high profile.

  11. Lynn Brown says:

    Spoelstra does not coach,pick a coach that deserves it!!! The heat coach themselves!!! Doc Rivers will always be the best coach ever!!!Thibodeau is a great one also,Give the Coach of the year award to a great coach,not a coach teams that’s wins!!!Its not for the team,it’s for the COACH!!!!!!!

    • Pakyaw says:

      Coach is part of a team.,duh! if ur team is winning, coach don’t get a credit?.. But if ur team is losing, even with multiple allstar, blame the coach..(cough LAKERS)..

  12. No Regrets says:

    Sorry chief, but Erik Spoelstra was out-coached in at least 2 series this year: namely vs Indiana and Chicago – he’s good now, and will probably be better in the future, but he’s not a first tier coach now.
    And someone mentioned it, but it’s surprising how you media people ignore Indiana.
    And IMHO, Woodson is a hero down in NY, but his results on the court can’t justify a COTY award.

    Similarly with Phil Jackson, great work, but he was hardly ever the best coach, or his teams the better coached for that matter – his job was to manage the ego’s and maintain the balance and he did great, hence the championships. But as a coach, the complete package, he didn’t even deserve the one he got.

    Also, watch out for Houston too, this year. It’d be interesting to see what Kevin does there this year 🙂

  13. Europacer says:

    Vogel should have won it last season, although Karl did a great job over the regular season as well.

    Difference for me is this: Pacers started the season with their star injured (and as it turned out for the whole season), Hibbert coming in as a first time max-contract player and West the only truly experienced head, yet he managed to get Paul George and Lance Stephenson to break out, got the most out of a dubious point guard position and still got the team to win the division and finished third in the conference, add to that the excellent defence throughout the season and it should have been a lock.

    After the season a lot of people have forgotten that the outlook for the Pacers was mildly optimistic,mainly because the conference was weak without Rose, instead they performed above that level for the whole year resulting in a conference final series that went to the wire.

    • ac says:

      I disagree, though I think Vogel is a great coach. Coach of the year is given out to a coach for their regular season accomplishments, playoffs are not considered when they make their decision.

      Based on this, I wouldn’t give it Vogel because the Pacers weren’t really that impressive during the regular season. They had nice moments, but at the end of the day they finished 3 in a really weak Eastern Conference. It really wasn’t until the playoffs came – actually more specifically the NYK series because they didn’t look all that impressive against Atlanta in the first round – that Indiana started playing to its potential.

      I think he should definitely be considered this year because the Pacers have the best shot at beating Miami and they should get better this season.

  14. kek says:

    Tom Thibodeau and pop are the best coaches in the nba right now, Tom Thibodeau got to the second round of the playoffs with his bench, Pop well everyone knows how good he is. I would mention George Karl if he had a team to coach.

  15. jon jon says:

    I don’t think the coaches of teams that made the playoffs last year will have a chance to win COY since the award doesn’t reward continued excellence. Even though Doc is new to LAC, he cant make a significant regular season impact to a team that won 56 games last year. The coaches that will win will come from teams that got significantly better even though it might have to do with the players they added more than the coach of the team. That’s why I agree with Mike Brown and you should also include Mo Cheeks (Pistons), Rick Adelman (T’Wolves), Randy Whitman (Wizards), and maybe Mike Malone (Kings).

  16. clr76 says:

    I dont think the coach of the year award should be based on what the coaches have done in the past but what they do that season. Hence why Karl won it last year!!! took a team with low expectations and a super young roster only 2 years after losing their big name player (Melo) and took a 4th seed in the west… the same conference that has amazing talent and hard competition!! To do something like that is note worthy!!! Gotta say though that Vogel and Woodson should be up here too!!! Vogel is just awesome and Woodson saved the Knicks franchise and Melo’s reputation! hopefully they meet again in the playoffs cuz that was a historic battle!!!! Heat and both those teams too!!!

  17. harvin says:

    Gregg Popovich should be winning it a lot. He always ends up with more than 0 wins int he regular season each year and continued to get it done even though his three guys are aging and he those Spurs get young, he still does the job.

  18. Queen James says:

    The reason why Spoelstra doesn’t get the COY award is because critics know right now he is getting direct instructions from Pat Riley and his court options are Riley’s directives. A few years back, Riley placed him in command and the team didn’t do so well that Heat fans wanted him out and that Riley should take over. Riley, who had gone tired of going back to coaching and has immersed well as a General Manager/Consultant, told the fans he had confidence in Erik and would stick with him, That was when suddenly Spoeltra’s coaching improved because Riley was directly instructing him what to do and thus the Heat’s successes. This man didn’t even handle to game so well and did not make good game decisions when he was still playing as a point guard, how could he handle a whole team as a coach. When players disrespected Erik, Riley was quick to jump in the middle and settle the issue. The success of the Heat is not due to Spoelstra, it’s due to Riley because he is the one really coaching. Riley is Spoelstra’s savior and redeemer.

    • Menz says:

      Spo will not get a COY because many of you will give credit to Riley despite of his performance with 2007-2008 Heat which has only 15 win, while almost the same roster made to the playoff as Spo debuting his first coaching job. Where is logic here?

  19. TheAll-Star136 says:

    Erik Spoelstra will finally get Coach of the Year next season.

    • Jojo Lecitona says:

      I doubt it. The COY award shiuld have been his during 2011-12 and 2012-13 back to back season. But I don’t know how these voting people do it. Last year should have been a choice between pop and spo but they gave it to karl. Hows that.

    • aaaaaa says:

      Spoelstra doesn’t really deserve COY. Any team with LeBron, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh is going to be really good no matter what. I’m not saying he’s a bad coach, just not good enough for COY. In my opinion, Frank Vogel will probably win it.

      • Sit Down says:

        Spo helps the team stay motivated, and go through that 27-game win streak as if each one was a game 7. Also he has stood his ground when one of the big 3 tries to push him aside and take control of the team. He also has helped with keeping their egos intact and thinking of team first.

      • Menz says:

        Spo should have his COY 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 where he was able to bring his team to playoff even without Lebron.

  20. Cripple Rapist says:

    Does mike woodson made it to finals??? or conference finals??? If not, well that answers everything… Spo 3finals 2 rings, Pop how about 4 rings etc. do I need to detail it??? Mike Brown 1 finals appearance,conf finals, Rivers 1 ring and a conference finals… Mike Woodson??? How about Karl Finals appearance (sonics) Sloan 2 finals appearance (utah) He hasn’t reach conference finals, I Think that explains everything….

  21. Daniel says:

    Coach Vogel not even considered? how is that possible when Indiana Pacers took Heat to a game 7 with just starters really. Now he will have a full bench to go to. Not saying these other guys do not deserve consideration but to ignore what Coach Vogel’s talents and his ability to put his team in a possition to win games should be considered.

  22. pacquiaoverated says:

    because the Knicks gonna get stumped to the ground by every other teams

  23. […] Summer Dreaming: Coach Of The Year Then again, we can count on the cream of the crop to get the most out of their teams. So let's go right … When the Heat check in with the best regular-season record again in April and embark on their quest for a three-peat, Spoelstra should finally … Read more on (blog) […]

  24. ac says:

    My god, commentators hate the Knicks! May I ask why Mike Woodson once again is not included in the discussion? The past two years NYK has improved each year, and this year will be no different. The improvement last season from the previous is so dramatic that its astonishing how his name was barely mentioned in conversation. Last season, he got career seasons out of Melo, JR Smith, and, arguably, Felton. Not to mention leading the Knicks to their first division title and second overall seed in the Eastern conference. He also helped turn Chris Copeland from Belgian D League mediocrity into a certifiable NBA player. Now, obviously he doesn’t get all the credit for their success but I really feel he was overlooked last year and will unfortunately suffer the same fate this year just because commentators for some reason don’t like NYK.

    • AM says:

      When did you start watching the NBA? The Knicks won ther FIFTH division title last year, I think. Maybe I’m wrong with the exact number, but certainly it wasn’t their first

    • Giddi says:

      Mike Woodsen was third in the voting last year, how is this not “being in the discussion”?

      I think Woodsen was overrated last year, I don’t think he was in the top 5 last year and he won’t be this year, he just doesn’t have a good system in place and doesn’t have his players under control.

      • ac says:

        dude, he was third in voting with 2 votes. Out of like 30. I don’t count that as being fairly in the discussion and, at any rate, my primary point was that he isn’t even entered in the discussion here.

      • ac says:

        Woops, i was looking at a different voting listing on ESPN that wasn’t the official one. I guess you’re right, he was in the discussion. I still think he’s a great coach though the Hawks improved every year he was with them and the Knicks have improved every year so there’s no reason to think it won’t continue this year. The fact that everybody was picking against them last year helped them reach their goal, hopefully it will this year.

    • Unkle Daddy says:

      Everybody hates the Knicks and the Nets as well now, people just hate New Yorkers because they all act as if they have a great team(s), but they haven’t proved anything. People hate the Lakers and Heat too, but they’ve got championships, so people jump on the band wagon. Get a championship then the tone will change.

      • Quim says:

        New York does have a descent team that can compete even deep into the playoffs. Problem is they need a floor general. I always thought Chris Paul would be that guy for 2013-2014 season, the rest you already know. Felton and Prigioni can”t provide that role and with all the pointguards taken, the Knicks will continue to struggle. I would look to trada Stoudamire and Shumpert as bait for Terry and Barea. Those two payed with Chandler in Dallas and could bring that team together. The New York Knicks needs to quit collecting too much talented athletes that don’t fit. Sometime too much talent creates an imbalance within the team. Look for role players willing to support Carmelo, Carmelo is a beast but should be utilized by a pointguard as as as CP3. I’d everyone on that Knicks roster not named Carmelo or Tyson and play cards for Rondo and then build around those 3.

      • ac says:

        First of all, we don’t act as if we have a great team. We DO have a great team. Just wait for this season.

        And secondly, people hating New Yorkers has nothing to do with the Knicks, Nets, or any other sports team. It has to do with them feeling insecure about living in Oshkosh, Cleveland, Des Moines, or some other lame town. You can’t compete with NYC!

        Sorry, its just the truth and you know it.

      • ac says:


        I agree that I’d like to see them get a better point guard, but I don’t think its their biggest problem. Playing defense and rebounding consistently are what they need. Both of those attributes are less about talent and adding players and more about desire. You have to want to defend and you have to fight to rebound. The Knicks really didn’t do either of those things consistently last year. The good news is that both of those things are easily correctable provided they are willing to put in the work.

        And Shumpert/Stat for Terry/Barea?? Lol. Stripping aside the fact that Terry and Barea play on different teams now that’s a horrible trade. For one thing I don’t think anybody in Manhattan wants to see Jason Terry wear a Knicks uniform after last seasons celtics series. Secondly, Stat may have declined but he’s definitely still WAY better than Terry and Shumpert is WAY better than Barea. I’m not sure Shump can ever be an all star but I definitely he’s poised for a breakout year this season if he stays healthy. I could see his stats jumping to the 15, 5, and 5 area. Maybe I’m overshooting, but he was really starting to come on in the playoffs last season and this year will be his first full season in the NBA if he can stay healthy. I think he has a huge upside.

      • John F says:

        with Bargnani and Udrih, the knicks should look to improve at the point guard position. Rondo would bring a lot to this franchise. Either Shumpert or J.R. Smisth has to go. New York always loads up on these positions but never ends up winning the big one. I can’t seam to figure this out.

    • wak9 says:

      Because the knicks are a joke franchise and have been for many years!

      • Stir Fry says:

        I don’t think the Knicks should be judge so easily. Woodson will clean the kinks but has to get Carmelo help in the post. Maybe Amar’e will play more minutes hopefully but the Knicks got a solid lineup and I can’t wait to see what they can do.

      • Truth Be Told says:

        Go Knicks, what everyone else thinks is irrelevant. it’s just words, put it down in paper and Carmelo will be at the forefront!