Final Report Card Grades for Every NBA Coach
The lockout-shortened season not only tested the players, it also challenged the coaches in a remarkably unique way.
They had little time for practice amidst the grueling schedule and often had to prepare their squads for games on consecutive nights (sometimes even on three consecutive nights).
The pace of this NBA season surely caused coaches stress, but certain coaches set themselves a part this year by finding ways to manufacture wins or simply helping their team's overachieve.
As the 2011-2012 regular season concludes, it's time to examine the report cards for every coach in the league.
Which coaches snagged a grade that reflects their wise tutelage and preparation? On the other hand, which coaches underachieved and failed to reach expectations?
Let the analysis begin.
Doc Rivers, Boston Celtics
With the core of the Celtics aging, Boston wasn't expected to nab the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They simply hoped to remain competitive, and come playoff time, situate themselves to make another deep playoff push.
They've done just that and coach Doc Rivers should receive the credit for this.
Despite lacking a solidified center, Rivers has gotten creative with the Celtics' rotation, even at times using Kevin Garnett at the five-spot. Rivers has also placed a great deal of trust in young guard Avery Bradley. Bradley has given the C's a youthful jolt of energy on both ends of the floor.
Boston won't go down easy come the playoffs, and a main reason for this is the unfading expertise of Doc Rivers.
Mike Woodson, New York Knicks
Mike Woodson has provided the Knicks with exactly what they've needed. He's instilled defensive tenacity and it's helped the Knicks find more consistency and unity.
What's more, he's been able to do this despite encountering numerous injuries (Amare Stoudemire, Jeremy Lin).
Most importantly, Woodson has extracted the superstar talent out of Carmelo Anthony, who has been on fire as of late. If this continues, the Knicks could potentially pull a shocker come playoff time.
If the Knicks do make some noise in the playoffs, Woodson's grade will undoubtedly leap to an A-plus, but even right now he's already proved more than enough to earn an impressive grade.
Doug Collins, Philadelphia 76ers
Early in the season, Doug Collins' name was being tossed around as a potential Coach of the Year candidate. The 76ers have struggled since the All-Star break and any such hopes have been dashed.
Philly has still hung on to make the playoffs, but it's a long shot that they'll go anywhere.
Despite their second-half struggles, Collins has still guided this team in an admirable way. They really don't have a solidified superstar (maybe Andre Iguodala?), but Collins has enabled them to buy into his defensive schemes and selfless offensive principles.
Avery Johnson, New Jersey Nets
Avery Johnson has had a rough couple years with the Nets. First, in the summer of 2010, there was hope of landing Lebron James. Swing and a miss.
Since then, they did acquire point guard Deron Williams, but failed to land Dwight Howard, of which there was much speculation.
What's more, there's a good chance Williams will bolt from the Nets as a free agent this summer, potentially to play for the Dallas Mavericks.
To make matters even worse for Johnson and the Nets, they endured their fair share of injuries this season, particularly to big man Brook Lopez (who only played in five games).
All that to say, there's no need to judge Johnson too strictly. Things simply haven't fallen his way.
Dwane Casey, Toronto Raptors
Let's be honest, there aren't many coaches on planet earth who could make the current Toronto Raptors into a high-quality team. They're too young and lack an elite player to carry them.
Frankly, it wouldn't have been surprising to see this Raptors squad with 10-15 wins, but they've compiled over 20. It's not like this team has been a total failure.
Dwane Casey has at least enabled his team to play competitively on a night-in, night-out basis. Perhaps that's the first step towards getting this bunch to the playoffs.
Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls
Last year's Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau, is every bit as deserving to win it again this year.
Despite enduring a handful of injuries, namely to reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls still pieced together the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Further, their defensive tenacity is second to none, which is reflective of Thibodeau's defensive principles that have laid the groundwork for Chicago's success.
Quite frankly, Thibodeau has become the NBA-version of Bill Belichick. He's simply a basketball mastermind.
Frank Vogel, Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have emerged as a dark horse in the Eastern Conference. With their size and length, they could pose trouble for anybody in the playoffs.
Frank Vogel has sparked vision for this team. It's undeniable that the Pacers have found themselves a gem of a young coach. The Pacers play superb defense, share the ball and possess surging team chemistry.
Based on such observations, it appears Vogel is doing above and beyond what many foresaw. This team is on the brink of becoming elite, if they haven't already.
Scott Skiles, Milwaukee Bucks
Scott Skiles is as intense as any coach in the league, but this intensity doesn't always generate results.
This season, while the Bucks surely didn't own the most talented team in the league, they were still pretty solid; especially after acquiring Monta Ellis at the trade deadline.
Despite Ellis' arrival and the emergence of big man Ersan Ilyasova, the Bucks failed to secure a playoff-berth. Because of this, it's only natural to wonder how much longer the Bucks will continue to experiment with Skiles.
Lawrence Frank, Detroit Pistons
Similar to Toronto, Detroit is not necessarily an enviable coaching position. There is not an overload of talent to work with in the Motor City.
Lawrence Frank guided the Pistons to a season that was about what most anticipated. He definitely needs to raise some more eyebrows if he's going to convince Detroit management he's their long-term solution at head coach.
Byron Scott, Cleveland Cavaliers
For a chunk of the season, Byron Scott's Cavaliers were in the playoff hunt, namely because of the emergence of rookie Kyrie Irving.
The Cavs have faltered down the stretch and are clearly in need of more quality pieces to situate around Irving.
Scott's at least done a respectable job of lifting this team up from the cellar and giving Cleveland fans reason to hope for the future.
Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
Erik Spoelstra surely has some star-studded talent to work with in Miami, but that talent comes with an overwhelming amount of pressure.
He's probably the only coach in the league whose season will be defined as a failure if they lose in the NBA Finals. It's simply championship or bust for the 2012 Miami Heat.
Spoelstra's managed this team wisely throughout the year, but there are still concerns. Is the team chemistry there? Will they fold under pressure?
Coach Spo' receives a decent grade, but we all know his true test lies in the next couple months.
Larry Drew, Atlanta Hawks
When big man Al Horford went down with an injury early in the year, it was easy to wonder if the Hawks would flail and perhaps even miss the playoffs.
It wouldn't have been surprising to see them hovering around .500 this season, but they've tallied a quality record (40-26) to earn the five-seed in the Eastern Conference.
It's not like it has been a remarkable season for the Hawks, but coach Larry Drew has helped keep this team above water when they could've easily sunk.
What's more, Al Horford is expected to play in the playoffs (although his minutes may be limited).
Stan Van Gundy, Orlando Magic
It's been a drama-filled year in Orlando, namely because of Dwight Howard trade rumors and most recently, rumors that Howard doesn't want to play for Stan Van Gundy anymore.
To make matters worse, Howard is now out for the season, which essentially eliminates the Magic from making any major noise in the playoffs.
Amidst all of this drama and disappointment, it's hard to know how to grade Van Gundy. He hasn't helped this team overachieve, yet they haven't underachieved.
Therefore, Van Gundy's grade is in middle of the road.
Randy Wittman, Washington Wizards
The Wizards fired Flip Saunders earlier in the year after they started 2-15. Randy Wittman has taken over and while he hasn't necessarily led a resurgence, he has created an array of hope for the future.
Much of this hope has surfaced recently, as the Wizards have finished the season on a good run (six-game winning streak).
Believe it or not, they're the only team in the league who won at both Chicago and Miami this season (although both teams were depleted in these victories).
They still have a long way to go, but give credit to Wittman for at least getting this team pointed in the right direction.
Paul Silas, Charlotte Bobcats
They lack talent, that's for sure. There aren't any human beings who are capable of making this Bobcats bunch into a competitive group.
With that said, this team is now officially the worst team in NBA history. They've recorded the worst winning percentage ever.
Because of this, there's no way Paul Silas can be graded generously.
It's simply been a long, treacherous season in Charlotte. I mean, maybe they would've been wise to suit up Michael Jordan for some of their games.
Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
The success of the Thunder isn't solely linked to superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Scott Brooks has legitimately proven his talent as a coach, both offensively and defensively.
The Thunder are positioned to make a run at the title, and if Brooks can discern the correct X's and O's, Oklahoma City could soon be hosting a championship parade.
Brooks receives a splendid grade but does come short of A-plus because the Thunder fell short of the Western Conference's top seed.
George Karl, Denver Nuggets
George Karl has been a respected coach for quite some time. This season, he has continued to impress by guiding the Nuggets back to the playoffs despite lacking a legitimate superstar.
Further, Karl has helped develop a handful of quality young players, particularly rookie Kenneth Faried (whose upside is through the roof).
Karl's a veteran coach who seems to always field competitive teams. Unfortunately for him, this Nuggets bunch is likely not a true contender. They're still a couple pieces away.
Tyrone Corbin, Utah Jazz
Not many figured the Utah Jazz to make the playoffs in 2012, but coach Tyrone Corbin has landed them the eight-seed in the West.
The Jazz have a very promising future with a host of skilled big men and Corbin developing as a coach.
Corbin's made major strides this year and has certainly garnered respect in the process.
Kaleb Canales, Portland Trail Blazers
It's been an all-around disappointing year for Portland. In March, the Blazers fired Nate McMillan as their coach and young Kaleb Canales was then given the reins.
Canales did make some stellar impressions initially (including a win at Chicago), but they've slumped down the stretch. However, a major reason for this has been the absence of All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, who's been sidelined recently and will undergo hip surgery in May.
It's hard to grade Canales because he's been there a limited amount of time and has endured a major injury to his star. But, he hasn't done anything to make one think he can't coach in the league.
Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves
Similar to George Karl, Rick Adelman's been around the NBA a long time and knows how to field competitive teams.
He surprised many by guiding the T'Wolves to a respectable season, even having them in playoff contention for awhile. They have struggled lately, but Adelman (as well as Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio) have given Minnesota fans reason to be excited for the first time since Kevin Garnett left.
Mike Brown, L.A. Lakers
Coaching the Lakers is not an easy gig, especially when you're following in Phil Jackson's footsteps.
But Mike Brown has handled the pressure of coaching in Los Angeles well. He has even guided the Lakers to the No. 3 seed in the West.
While the Lakers aren't the front-runner to win the title, they certainly have the capability to do so, especially if Brown can "earn his stripes" with the Lakers and prove his intellect in the playoffs.
Vinny Del Negro, L.A. Clippers
Vinny Del Negro certainly has talent in "Lob City," as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin make for quite the dynamic duo.
All in all, the Clips have had a stellar year, especially when you consider that this was the first year their core was assembled.
With that said, Del Negro needs to prove himself as a coach in the playoffs. This will quiet any concerns that he has what it takes to guide the rising Clips.
Alvin Gentry, Phoenix Suns
Steve Nash was phenomenal throughout this year and center Marcin Gortat emerged as a potent low post threat. Despite these things, the Suns came up short of the playoffs.
There's reason to believe the Suns should've made the playoffs, perhaps over the Jazz or Nuggets.
Because of this, Gentry receives a rather harsh grade because this team didn't accomplish what it could have.
Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors
It's been an interesting first-year in Golden State for coach Mark Jackson. They've encountered injuries (particularly to Stephen Curry) and even traded away one of the league's premier scorers, Monta Ellis.
These intangibles have made it difficult for Jackson to find success in his first year with the Warriors.
The bright spot for Jackson has been the play of rookie Klay Thompson. If everybody is healthy next year (namely Curry and center Andrew Bogut), this team undoubtedly has playoff potential.
Keith Smart, Sacramento Kings
The Kings are laden with young players and the playoffs weren't a realistic thought this season.
All in all, Keith Smart has done a fine job after taking over for the fired Paul Westphal. He's at least earned the right to remain the coach of this team for the next couple seasons.
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
This could quite possibly be Gregg Popovich's most impressive season yet, and he's had many eye-opening years.
Most considered the Spurs a thing of the past when the season started. Yet they steamrolled through the regular season and landed the West's top seed.
Popovich continually has this team prepared and has been able to find success through a bevy of different contributors this season. He has all the intangibles of a Hall of Fame coach.
Lionel Hollins, Memphis Grizzlies
Like the Pacers in the East, the Memphis Grizzlies are the dark horse in the West.
The Grizzlies are a team who could cause trouble for anybody in the playoffs. Remember what they did last year? As the eight-seed, they ousted the Spurs in the first round.
What's more, coach Lionel Hollins has helped them develop more consistency this season. He even helped them compile a stellar record despite being without big man Zach Randolph for significant time due to injury.
While Hollins won't garner any accolades, his efforts this season are worthy of praise.
Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks
The reigning champion Mavericks don't have the same firepower they had last year, but it's not because of coach Rick Carlisle. It's because they lost Tyson Chandler and spark plug J.J. Barea.
Truthfully, Carlisle has done an admirable job, considering he had to endure the Lamar Odom fallout and face the reality that the Mavs are simply getting older.
It's unlikely the Mavs will repeat, but it's not because they aren't well-coached.
Kevin McHale, Houston Rockets
Kevin McHale almost led the Rockets to the playoffs, despite their handful of young players in major roles and an array of injuries.
If this team is healthy for all of next year, they truly should make the playoffs.
While McHale didn't do anything remarkable this year in Houston, he at least has the ship moving in the right direction.
Monty Williams, New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets have finished the season on a high-note, compiling a stellar record in the season's final ten or so games.
Let's be honest, this team wasn't expected to do anything special after they traded Chris Paul and were without Eric Gordon for most of the season due to injury.
Williams has made the most of the season in New Orleans. The question is if this team can take another step and make the playoffs in 2013.
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