Every year the two biggest award debates in the NBA is Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Coach of the Year (COY). The reason why these postseason awards are so debatable is there isn’t any legitamate criteria for who wins them. It changes from year to year and some coaches win the award and then, poof, they are fired the next year. Ask Don Chaney.
So what is the criteria for COY?
Best record that season with an All-Star team: Avery Johnson.
Most exciting team with a two-time MVP: Mike D’Antoni.
Most decorated champion with you-know-who on the team: Phil Jackson.
Most consistent team with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili: Gregg Popovich.
Always looks like Coach of the Year with Dwyane Wade and the Diesel: Pat Riley.
It should be a small combination of all those factors (none more important than the other) but the main question when it comes to this award should be… Did you take a team with no high expectations and minimal talent and turn it into a team that grew and improved during the course of the season to the point that nobody wants to face it in the playoffs?
There are always exceptions to the norm. Doc Rivers (COY in 1999-00 with a 41-41 record with the heart-and-hustle Orlando Magic that didn’t make the playoffs that season) has as many COY awards as Phil Jackson. Doc has never gone past the first round. Phil has nine titiles. But everybody says anyone can coach Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen! That’s why the criteria is always going to be challenged.
So with all those factors presented, my choice of COY is Sam Mitchell of the Toronto Raptors.
Now let me explain.
I was one of the main critics early in the season that said Sam Mitchell would be the first coach fired because of several reasons. When new GM Bryan Colangelo went to Toronto, he didn’t give Mitchell an extension and that made him a lame duck coach during this season. And the Raptors (or as my oldest daughter called them when I got traded there in 1998, Barney with teeth) started off 12-18 in the worse division in the NBA.
Now look at the Raptors. They didn’t go over the .500 mark until February 4 with a 24-23 record and now they just clinched their first Atlantic Division in team history. Since February, they have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA (19-10) and this has been done with a new offense, No. 1 draft pick Andrea Bargnani getting better every month (until the appendectomy surgery) and the most underrated All-Star in the NBA in Chris Bosh leading the way. And when you are coaching under lame duck status and getting blasted daily by everyone and still achieve what Sam Mitchell has achieved with this ballclub, then that’s Coach of the Year with me.
I’ve played in the T.O. when we had Vince, T-Mac, Oakley, Doug Christie, Dell Curry, Muggsy Bogues and Kevin Willis (who is about 900 years old playing with the Mavs and is the most in-shape athlete at his age!) The love and support this team is getting in Canada because of what Sam Mitchell has done for this team and country is remarkable.
If there is someone more deserving than Sam Mitchell, then I guess the criteria always has its exceptions.