NBA Power Rankings: Top 10 Candidates for Coach of the Year
As we approach the last four weeks of the NBA regular season, the candidates for NBA Coach of the Year are becoming very clear.
This season we have seen a trend of superstars carrying teams in the East, as well as veteran teams continuing their dominance in the West.
It can be tough to distinguish good coaching from players simply overachieving, but there are absolutely certain coaches whose performances stand out.
Whereas coaches used to do the bulk of their work through X's and O's, in today's game, the best coaches are the ones who can maximize their talent and keep players motivated.
Here are the top 10 coaches to date.
10. Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers
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Although we tend to take the Lakers' success for granted, Phil Jackson has done a great job of coaching Los Angeles this season, and he is a major reason why they are still the favorite to win it all once again.
The Lakers are 48-20 for the season but, more importantly, they have won 10 out of 11 since the All-Star break, including impressive road wins over Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Portland, Atlanta and Dallas.
During the All-Star break, Phil Jackson had an individual meeting with each Laker player, and this seems to have refueled the Lakers magic that appeared to be lost at times during the first half of the season. Since that meeting, forward Ron Artest and center Andrew Bynum have been much more focused, both offensively and defensively.
9. Doug Collins, Philadelphia 76ers
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In his first year as the coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, Doug Collins has found a way to make the Sixers relevant once again.
Collins has a lot of experience, going all the way back to his days coaching a young Michael Jordan, and he has done an excellent job of commanding this particular Sixers club.
Elton Brand is having a comeback season for Philadelphia after a rough 2010 season under coach Eddie Jordan, in which the Sixers were just 27-55. Philadelphia is in position to make the postseason this year, largely due to the efforts of Collins.
8. Doc Rivers, Boston Celtics
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When Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were traded to Boston during the summer of 2007, joining All-Star Paul Pierce, many expected the Celtics to have a two-to-three-year window of competitive basketball before they got too old.
Here we are in 2011, and the Celtics are tied with Chicago for the best record in the Eastern Conference with just a month left in the season.
Coach Doc Rivers has emphasized the importance of sharing the basketball and playing tough defense, which has rubbed off on Garnett, Pierce and Allen, who have found a way to put their egos aside to play great team basketball.
7. Nate McMillan, Portland Trail Blazers
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McMillan knows how to make the most of out what he has and this year is no exception.
Despite serious injuries to star player Brandon Roy, center Greg Oden and backup center Marcus Camby, McMillan has managed to keep Portland in playoff contention all season.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Miller and Wesley Matthews have stepped up their roles as needed. Meanwhile, the Rose Garden continues to feature one of the loudest arenas in the NBA.
6. Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
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In the two-plus seasons since Brooks took over as the coach of Oklahoma City, the Thunder have gone from one of the worst teams in the NBA to one of the top contenders.
The Thunder improved from 23 wins in 2009 all the way to 50 wins last season. This season, the Thunder are on pace for 54 wins, and nobody wants to play a team with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins in the postseason.
5. Lionel Hollins, Memphis Grizzlies
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Since starting the season 19-23, Memphis is an impressive 18-8 and is in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Now in his third season as the head coach of Memphis, coach Lionel Hollins has finally found a way to get the most out of talented players like Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, OJ Mayo and Marc Gasol.
The Grizzlies have never won a postseason game in their history, but they are poised to do so with a young, athletic roster that keeps getting better.
4. Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks
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If not for the incredible success that San Antonio has enjoyed this season, we would be gushing over Dallas.
The Mavericks have played exceptionally well all year long, and despite a rough 2-7 stretch when Nowitzki was out with a sprained right knee, Dallas is 47-19 on the season and currently tied with the Lakers for the No. 2 seed in the West.
Carlisle has done a great job of utilizing the depth on his club, playing nobody more than 34 minutes per game, while stopping opponents on the defensive end with exceptional zone defense.
3. George Karl, Denver Nuggets
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Despite battling serious health issues, George Karl has been able to remain in control of the Denver Nuggets team and has done arguably the best work of his career this season.
Through the first three months of the season, the Nuggets had to deal with distractions regarding the strong possibility of their star player, Carmelo Anthony, leaving Denver, but they have still managed to stay in playoff contention.
Anthony was finally traded three weeks ago, and since the trade, Denver has actually played exceptionally well, winning eight of 10 games, including seven double-digit wins.
2. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls
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In his first season as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, Tom Thibodeau has done a remarkable job of improving the Bulls from a team that won 41 games last season to a team that is on pace to win 59 games this season.
The Bulls weren't able to sign one of the elite free agents this past offseason like LeBron James, Amar'e Stoudemire or Dwyane Wade, but they have found success with power forward Carlos Boozer, and more importantly, third-year point guard Derrick Rose has become a star.
Chicago has the second-best scoring defense in the NBA and has shown that it can hang with the elite teams in the East, having beaten Boston twice in three games and beating Miami all three times.
The Bulls appear to only be getting better, currently on a 38-10 run after a 9-8 start.
1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
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While most of the attention heading into the season revolved around the Lakers in the West, as well as teams like Miami, Boston, Orlando and Chicago in the East , it has been the old, reliable Spurs that have played the best in 2010-2011.
Many thought that the Spurs were too old to continue their dominance, which is now going on 14 years in a row with a winning percentage above .600. Instead, the Spurs raced out to a 25-3 start and haven't looked back, and they are now currently on pace to win 66 games.
For the first time in four seasons, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have all managed to stay healthy, and the Spurs have also benefited from a deep bench with players like DeJuan Blair, Richard Jefferson, George Hill and Gary Neal providing valuable minutes.
Popovich has done a masterful job of recognizing this particular team's strengths and has turned the Spurs from a half-court, low-post scoring team into a faster-paced, three-pont shooting team.