By Craig Fields
There has been plenty of debate, skepticism and wonder about George Karl winning the Coach of the Year award on Wednesday, May 8. Honestly, with there being so many teams seemingly over achieving this year, the case could have been made for several head coaches. This year might have been the most open the race has been in the last five years.
Upon receiving the award Coach Karl stated, “I am honored and energized to represent coaching and be their ambassador as coach of the year and continue to symbolize the great coaching there is in the NBA. There are probably seven or eight guys who are deserving of it and another 10 or 15 other coaches who have done a great job and aren’t getting any recognition.”
Well Coach you hit the nail on the head with that statement. In fact case after case could be made for guys like Erik Spoelstra, Mike Woodson, Tom Thibodeau, Frank Vogel and without question Mark Jackson. But with that being said, I’m going to stand by the guy who is 6th on the NBA all-time wins list and explain why he brought home the hardware. He was deserving of the award and his 62 first place votes, while overwhelming, were anything but fluky.
Now, the Coach of the Year is a regular season reward — and Coach Karl definitely had a heck of a regular season. He led the third youngest roster in the NBA to a team record 57 wins and to it’s 10th straight playoff appearance. The Denver Nuggets obtained the 4th best record in the league, good for a number 3 seed in the Western Conference. He passed Larry Brown to become the coach with the 6th most wins in NBA history.
This years’ Nuggets set a franchise record of 15 straight victories and went 24-4 after the All-Star break. They won 38 home games including 23 straight to close out the regular season — also a team record. He was named Western Conference Coach of the Month once in January with a 12-4 record, and again in March with a franchise best matching 13-2 record. With the mark of this season, he has compiled 21 consecutive non-losing seasons (the Bucks went 41-41 in 2001-02), matching Phil Jackson for the longest such streak in NBA history.
Still not done…
His team led the league in scoring, offensive rebounds, fast-break points, points off turnovers and points in the paint. He did all of this without a single All-Star this year. He dealt with one of the hardest schedules in the league with 17 of the Nuggets first 23 games being on the road. Even though the number is a bit skewed because of the lock out, it should be mentioned that he had a 19 game improvement in the win column from last season. Without a dominant inside presence and premier shooting, it can be argued that no coach got more out of a team of role players than Coach Karl did. He helped his team fight through the ever present and dangerous injury bug when their leading scorer Danillo Gallinari and starting point guard Ty Lawson went down in the season.
So go ahead and strut Coach Karl. Gone with your bad self, as they might say in the 60’s. You deserve it. Your case was strongest. Your coaching job was best. You can hold your head up high and finally say I did it. I have won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award.