NBA Coach of the Year: Let's Pick the Right Guy

Michael WhittenbergSenior Writer IMarch 22, 2008

The Red Auerbach Trophy is an award that goes to the NBA's best coach during the season in which they receive the award. 

Whenever a coach wins the award, it is usually because they are the head coach of the best team that season.

It can also mean that a team has made a turnaround from the previous season without adding any major parts to the roster.

Maybe it's just me—but I've never been a fan of coaches winning Coach of the Year after their team added major parts during the offseason.

In 2005, Mike D'Antoni of the Phoenix Suns won Coach of the Year. 

Phoenix won 62 games that season, but Quentin Richardson, Joe Johnson, and Steve Nash—who went on to win the MVP award the next two seasons, had been added to the roster.

This season, the same situation could potentially happen in Boston, where Doc Rivers' Celtics has had a wonderful turnaround season. 

But not so fast: Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, James Posey, and Eddie House all were new faces in Boston coming into this season. 

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Not to take anything away from Doc Rivers, because a 31-win turnaround from last season with 14 games to go is always impressive.

So should be this year's Coach of the Year? 

A case can be made for all these guys:

1. Byron Scott, New Orleans Hornets (46-21)

After being plaqued by injuries last season, the Hornets got off to a fresh start this year by going 29-12 the first half of the season.

Last season, New Orleans finished the season with 39 wins and of course didn't make the playoffs.

The play of Chris Paul has been a huge reason for the turn around this season.  But Byron Scott gets the credit as well.

Considering that Scott coached the New Jersey to two consecutive Finals appearences in 2002 and 2003, it really should come to no surprise that the Hornets are one of the Western Conference's best teams.

The Hornets also stand atop the same division that features both San Antonio and Dallas. 

2. Jerry Sloan, Utah Jazz (45-25)

Eleven 50+ win seasons, including three 60+ win season, and two NBA Finals appearances.

What does Jerry Sloan have to do to win Coach of the Year?

Coach Sloan doesn't try to force his players into a system. He's also never been known to complain about the lack of talent on his team.

Instead, he looks at the players he has and molds a system around them.

It's amazing that he has never won the Coach of the Year award.

After leading Utah to the Western Conference Finals last season, Sloan and Co. seem to be on same track.

Sloan's team is first in their division and fourth in the conference, but that can change within one day.

Aside from the addition of Kyle Korver, Utah is pretty much working with the same unit they had one year ago.

Sloan might get snubbed from the award again this season, but no one is more deserving of the award than this guy.

3. Stan Van Gundy, Orlando Magic (46-25)

Van Gundy was the preseason favorite to win Coach of the Year by the experts at ESPN, and he his right there at the top of the race.

This guy has to be overwhelmed with joy this season, especially since his former team, the Miami Heat is sitting dead last in the NBA. 

Sweet redemption for the guy who was forced out of Miami after Pat Riley showed signs that he wanted to coach the team.

And another thing that makes his situation so good is that he wasn't even coaching last season.

The Magic did make a big offseason move by acquiring Rashard Lewis, but Van Gundy is still a big reason why the Magic holds the third best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Winner: Byron Scott

Other Candidates

Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers

Doc Rivers, Boston Celtics

Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia 76ers

Rick Adleman, Houston Rockets

NBA Coach of the Year Past Winners

2006-07 - Sam Mitchell, Toronto
2005-06 - Avery Johnson, Dallas
2004-05 - Mike D'Antoni, Phoenix
2003-04 - Hubie Brown, Memphis
2002-03 - Gregg Popovich, San Antonio
2001-02 - Rick Carlisle, Detroit
2000-01 - Larry Brown, Philadelphia
1999-00 - Doc Rivers, Orlando
1998-99 - Mike Dunleavy, Portland
1997-98 - Larry Bird, Indiana
1996-97 - Pat Riley, Miami
1995-96 - Phil Jackson, Chicago
1994-95 - Del Harris, Los Angeles Lakers
1993-94 - Lenny Wilkens, Atlanta
1992-93 - Pat Riley, New York
1991-92 - Don Nelson, Golden State
1990-91 - Don Chaney, Houston
1989-90 - Pat Riley, Los Angeles Lakers
1988-89 - Cotton Fitzsimmons, Phoenix
1987-88 - Doug Moe, Denver
1986-87 - Mike Schuler, Portland
1985-86 - Mike Fratello, Atlanta
1984-85 - Don Nelson, Milwaukee
1983-84 - Frank Layden, Utah
1982-83 - Don Nelson, Milwaukee
1981-82 - Gene Shue, Washington
1980-81 - Jack McKinney, Indiana
1979-80 - Bill Fitch, Boston
1978-79 - Cotton Fitzsimmons, Kansas City
1977-78 - Hubie Brown, Atlanta
1976-77 - Tom Nissalke, Houston
1975-76 - Bill Fitch, Cleveland
1974-75 - Phil Johnson, Kansas City-Omaha
1973-74 - Ray Scott, Detroit
1972-73 - Tom Heinsohn, Boston
1971-72 - Bill Sharman, Los Angeles
1970-71 - Dick Motta, Chicago
1969-70 - Red Holzman, New York
1968-69 - Gene Shue, Baltimore
1967-68 - Richie Guerin, St. Louis
1966-67 - Johnny Kerr, Chicago
1965-66 - Dolph Schayes, Philadelphia
1964-65 - Red Auerbach, Boston
1963-64 - Alex Hannum, San Francisco
1962-63 - Harry Gallatin, St. Louis

Michael Whittenberg is a senior writer and NBA Community Leader at BleacherReport.com

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