NBA Coach of the Year Watch
The InsideHoops.com NBA Coach of the Year Watch is our official opinion on the best coaching job of the season, and is specifically in regard to the annual Coach of the Year award. The rankings are by Jeff Lenchiner, a national NBA analyst and the editor of InsideHoops.com. He'll be updating this every 2-4 weeks throughout 2006-07.
Updated on January 28, 2006.
1) Phil Jackson, Los Angeles lakers, Record: 27-17
The Lakers are Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and role players who should be 6th-10th men, not starters. Odom has only played 22 games this season, yet the team has a winning record. Although plenty of other squads are better, as great as Bryant is we feel Phil Jackson has done the most with the least amount of talent.
2) Mike D'Antoni, Phoenix Suns, Record: 36-8
True, Steve Nash runs this show, and it seems like the only coaching these guys may need is "run, cut, get open, and prepare for Nash's passes." And while that may partially be the case, these guys have won 17 straight games, which is insane. Coach D'Antoni gets credit, even if it's for simply not messing up. But, he's clearly an extremely good coach and the squad plays total team basketball.
3) Avery Johnson, Dallas Mavericks, Record: 36-9
Although Dirk Nowitzi obviously does a lot, like the Suns Dallas plays total team basketball, with everyone filling their roles. The Mavs are a ridiculous 20-3 at home. Avery Johnson, the "Little General," has these guys play both ends of the floor. He does a terrific job.
4) Jerry Sloan , Utah Jazz, Record: 29-16
It's almost unfair ranking Sloan, possibly worthy of winning the award, this low. But the Suns and Mavericks have been so dominant, and the Lakers on paper have been so understaffed with Odom out and Kobe often alone out there with role players, that we felt compelled to drop Sloan to #4. The Jazz are getting the most out of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. Mehmet Okur is playing well. Andrei Kirilenko has dropped a bit, but he's still a very key part of a terrific unit.
5) Jeff Van Gundy , Houston Rockets, Record: 27-16
Nobody is mentioning the terrific job Jeff Van Gundy has done this season. Of 43 games, Tracy McGrady has played just 35, and Yao Ming 27, yet Houston has managed to compile the 5th highest winning percentage in the league. Van Gundy has made excellent use of Shane Battier, Rafer Alston, Luther Head and Juwan Howard.
6) Gregg Popovich , San Antonio Spurs, Record: 32-14
The Spurs aren't having one of their standout seasons and have played on a lower level than Phoenix and Dallas, but they're still the next best team. They play using their usual, long-established system. Popovich is a top Coach of the Year candidate every year.
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan figured out this season that the best way for his team to cover up their defensive issues is to go all-out on the offensive end. The Wizards try to be the East's version of the Phoenix Suns, and it works well enough as they've compiled the 7th best record in the league. But Washington isn't quite good enough for us to name Jordan an official Coach of the Year candidate just yet. For now, he gets an honorable mention. But check back in a few weeks.
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