Mike Budenholzer has won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award, the league announced. The Hawks bench boss edged first-year Warriors head man Steve Kerr for the honor. Bucks coach Jason Kidd finished a distant third.
Budenholzer took an injury-hit club that finished 38-44 in the regular season to a seventh game against the top-seeded Pacers last season, a playoff performance that foreshadowed what was to come in 2014/15. The Hawks zoomed to the top of the Eastern Conference with a 17-0 January, and they won 19 games in a row, the fifth-longest single-season winning streak in NBA history. Atlanta accomplished those feats and won 60 games without a player widely considered a superstar, and only Al Horford, who makes $12MM, earning as much as $10MM this season.
The success that Budenholzer had on the bench was even more impressive considering the turmoil surrounding the franchise. Controlling owner Bruce Levenson self-reported a racially-charged email and decided to sell the team, and GM Danny Ferry has been on a leave of absence in the wake of his own racially insensitive remarks, leaving Budenholzer as the acting GM in his place. Budenholzer is up for Executive of the Year honors as well, though Hoops Rumors learned that it’s displeased some other executives around the league who wanted the chance to vote for Ferry.
Still, there’s no denying Budenholzer’s qualifications for Coach of the Year in just his second season as an NBA head man. None of the top four finishers, including fourth-place vote-getter Brad Stevens, have more than two years of NBA coaching experience. Fifth on the list is the long-tenured Gregg Popovich, under whom Budenholzer served as an assistant before taking the Hawks job. Budenholzer, Kerr, Kidd, Popovich and Tom Thibodeau were the coaches who received first-place votes. Media members cast the ballots, and the full results are here.