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2014 PBT Awards: Coach of the Year

Apr 17, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT

Jeff Hornacek Jeff Hornacek

Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

1. Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns

2. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

3. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls

You can make a good case for any of those three to win it (just like you can make a good case for Steve Clifford to be on that list). I choose Hornacek because of the team culture and foundation he built in Phoenix, as well as the player development of guys such as Goran Dragic and Gerald Green (not to mention the Morris brothers). He won 47 games with a team most thought was built to tank.

Brett Pollakoff

1. Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns

2. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls

3. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

Gregg Popovich guided the Spurs to the best record in the league the season following one of the most crushing Finals defeats in NBA history. We should name this award after him for instilling a culture that enables him to strategically rest his stars while continuing to rack up wins year after year, while making the playoffs for the 17th straight season. But as far as a job done in one season by itself, it would be crazy to overlook the year the Suns put together under a first-year head coach in Hornacek. Phoenix ended the season with 47 wins in a very tough Western Conference with as many as five candidates for Most Improved Player on its roster, and the job Hornacek did in putting that all together is worthy of recognition.

Dan Feldman

1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

2. Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns

3. Steve Clifford, Charlotte Bobcats

In an extremely close four-man race, Clifford edges Tom Thibodeau for the final spot on my ballot. Both elevated rosters higher than they seemed they would go, Thibodeau taking the better group of players higher than Clifford took a lesser group, which cancels out. Clifford gets the edge, because he established an identity on a team full of players that didn’t fit his system, whereas Thibodeau was working with players who did. Between the top two, Popovich is the best coach in the NBA, but I could argue he didn’t have to do as much this year – it is Coach of the Year – as Hornacek. But by resting his top players so much and seamlessly integrating new ones, Popovich impressed by keeping the Spurs rolling no matter who was on the floor this year.

  1. calkinsrob - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    Pop and Thibs should always be in the running, but the coach of THIS year is Hornacek. I think almost everyone had the suns getting a top lottery pick this year.

    • bougin89 - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      Totally agree.

      “I think almost everyone had the suns getting a top lottery pick this year.”

      To take this one step further before this season started if you said Eric Bledsoe would miss half the season you’d be thinking this was a fifteen win team. All things considered 48 wins is one helluva job by Hornacek.

      • asimonetti88 - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:22 PM

        A lot of individual players on the team took developmental steps forward as well, a sign of good coaching.

    • antistratfordian - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:52 PM

      The Raptors were also supposed to be going into full tank mode. Remember what everyone was saying after the Rudy Gay trade? Riggin’ for Wiggins!

      Here is what Brett Pollakoff said about the trade in December: “Toronto began the season with the goal of making the playoffs, but it’s become clear after 18 games that even in the dismal Eastern Conference, that’s not going to happen…”

      The Nets were supposed to be a powerhouse in the Atlantic division, with the Knicks right there with them battling for the top spot. But guess what? The Raptors won that division and a top 3 seed. They ended up with a top 10 offense and a top 10 defense in the process.

      Stop the racism. Casey > Hornacek

    • spursareold - Apr 17, 2014 at 5:01 PM

      They may STILL have a high lottery pick. They are in the lottery, after all.

      • calkinsrob - Apr 17, 2014 at 5:07 PM

        yea i realized that right after i posted haha. o well they would have been like the 3-4 seen in the east.

  2. buffalo65 - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    None of the above. Duane Casey wins it.

    • asimonetti88 - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      48 wins in the West is far more impressive than 48 wins in the East. Especially when your best player missed nearly half the season.

      • antistratfordian - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:39 PM

        There is nothing impressive about missing the playoffs in any conference. No one is going to get rewarded for that. The Suns had several chances to clinch a playoff spot and kept blowing them.

        The Raptors were last in their division last year (54-win Knicks and Nets at the top) but they won the division title this year – so that gives them a top 3 seed. They also have a top 10 offense and a top 10 defense (something Phoenix cannot claim). All of that is more impressive than anything the Suns have done this year… which is, in the end, absolutely nothing.

      • dopekidz83 - Apr 17, 2014 at 5:22 PM

        antistratfordian – First of all the Suns were among the top 10 teams in overall offense (7th overall) while Toronto was 13th overall. Now you were correct in Toronto being one of the top 10 teams in defense, BUT that is due to the fact that they’re in the Eastern Conference. The only 2 Western Conference teams that cracked the top 10 in defense were the Spurs and Warriors. That right there let’s you know how tough it is to play in the Western Conference.

      • asimonetti88 - Apr 17, 2014 at 6:24 PM

        There is nothing impressive about missing the playoffs? If the Suns had been in the Eastern Conference they would have been a top 3 seed. And that’s assuming they wouldn’t have won even more than 48 games, considering they’d be playing the weak Eastern Conference more.

    • provguard - Apr 17, 2014 at 5:51 PM

      This year I considered the Eastern Conference as minor leagues…

  3. jeffcor7 - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    coach Clifford took a team that had won a combined 28 games in two years and led them to 43 wins. That is big time coaching, and Walker and Jefferson are still the only two starter quality players on the roster. I think Hornacek and Clifford are 1A and 1B.

    • calkinsrob - Apr 17, 2014 at 5:24 PM

      was he the coach of one of those bad teams? hes not a first year guy is he? but I think what makes Hornacek 1 and Clifford 2 is the suns dont have an al jefferson type player

      • ProBasketballPundit - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:56 AM

        Al Jefferson has never been on a winning team so I’m not sure what you mean an “Al Jefferson” type player. Coach Clifford finally got Big Al to play some defense. Now I’m not saying he deserves coach of the year, just responding to what you said.

  4. eoneil32 - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    Where is Terry Stotts!

    • spursareold - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:59 PM

      Running his players ragged, per usual.

  5. scottychicago - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    It would be hard to argue any of these guys winning it.

    • the1nonlyk - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:52 PM

      what ru serious?! Coach Pop all the way

  6. antistratfordian - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:23 PM

    Let’s give it to Dwane Casey.

  7. mp4philly - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    Brett Brown is the coach of the year. He finally got the 76ers out of having the 16th pick of the draft every year. Great job!

  8. 00maltliquor - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    Hell, I can’t call it this year. It should be a 6-way tie between Gregg, Tom, Rivers, Clifford, Buddenholzer (the East coast Hornacek when you think about it) and Hornacek.

  9. eugenesaxe1 - Apr 17, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    So a +21 in wins over last season and the 4th-best record in the league means nothing?

    • 00maltliquor - Apr 17, 2014 at 5:56 PM

      Who you talking about? Pacers are the 4th best team overall and were not a 35 win team last year.

      • eugenesaxe1 - Apr 17, 2014 at 6:07 PM

        Oops, meant 5th-best (Portland).

      • ProBasketballPundit - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:03 PM

        @eugenesaxe1 Yeah, good point. You don’t hear much about Terry Stotts in these conversations and that team did make a huge jump. Maybe it’s because they faded down the stretch a little bit.

  10. joeksnuffy - Apr 17, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    Hornacek?? Suns didn’t even make the playoffs. C’mon.

  11. mattwpearson - Apr 17, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    Duane Casey, best dinner with the worst ingredients

  12. savvybynature - Apr 17, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    The best part of Pop’s resume is not only did they get the best record in the league, but no one averaged even 30 minutes on the entire team, the first time that’s been done since the NBA/ABA merger.
    Now that’s how you manage minutes. Can’t be done any better. Not saying he deserves COY, but he makes a strong case.

    • davidly - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:13 AM

      I agree. And it shouldn’t matter that he has deep talent because he is clearly the guy that makes best use of it.

      As a comparison and thought experiment: if Frank Vogel had had just a smidgen of the sense to begin resting some of his guys in January, he might have ended with the best record and been in contention for this award, too. The last two games in which he gave multiple starters the night off is a display of how a bench can get the job done.

      Pop is a prime example of how to make winning last longer than anyone thought possible.

    • borderline1988 - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      Poppovich is probably the best coach in the league, but I do think his value is inflated a bit because of Duncan and Parker. People dont realize how good those 2 players are…they are both among the most underrated players in basketball. And to have them year after year, without any significant dropoff in production or major injuries…that’s amazing luck.

      I love the jobs Thibodeau and Hornacek have done. To have success with the rosters they have is just incredible.

      I don’t see how you can give the award to Clifford..the Bobcats barely made it above .500 in one of the crappiest Eastern Conferences in history. It’s true that the Bobcats have played well this season, but looking at the teams below them in the East, it’s not that surprising they ended up 7th.

      My ranking would be:

    • the1nonlyk - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:53 PM

      coach Pop all the way

  13. davidly - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:04 AM

    George Karl. Denver dropped 21 games in the standings since he left and nobody even noticed.

  14. fnc111 - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:05 AM

    Miss the playoffs and win an award? Only in America.

  15. ProBasketballPundit - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    Whoever wins it shouldn’t feel too secure in their job. Last year George Karl got fired after winning coach of the year… and then Lionel Hollins got fired after leading his team to the conference finals. Absurd.

  16. duhwighthoward - Apr 18, 2014 at 6:14 PM

    Kurt, Brett, and Dan,

    Jeff Hornacek is a nice guy and all, but seriously, the Spurs just posted their best record in franchise history. If you are a fan, who would you rather have? Do you want to go to the Finals or miss the playoffs? Why didn’t you include Mike DiAntoni? He also missed the playoffs and coaches a “fun style of basketball to watch.” And honestly, no one thought he could get those late season wins vs. San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and – your beloved Suns who were desperately fighting to make the playoffs.

    Greg Popovich dummies.

    It’s guys like you who only gave Phil Jackson the award once – despite him being, and don’t even try and argue against, the greatest coach of all time.

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