Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Coach Of The Year

While the NBA won’t announce this year’s award winners until June, we’re making our picks for 2019’s major awards over the next two weeks.

The Hoops Rumors writing team has weighed in with our choices below, but we also want to know which players, coaches, and executives you think are most deserving of the hardware this season, so jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts.

We’re keeping things going today with the award for Coach of the Year. Here are our selections:

Austin Kent: Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
While it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a top-five player evolve into a superstar, the Bucks benefited immensely from the excellent decision to hire Budenholzer, who took a good team propped up by its best player and morphed it into a well-oiled machine.

With Budenholzer at the helm, the Bucks increased their pace from 20th in the league to fifth. More impressively, they did so while also improving their defense. The Bucks were 18th in the league in defensive rating last season and first in 2018/19.

Suddenly, just one season removed from finishing as a 44-win squad and a relatively easy out, the Bucks are a 60-win behemoth and a legitimate title contender. Attribute some of that to the obvious strides Giannis Antetokounmpo took, but attribute the rest to the man that led the transformation from the sidelines.

Chris Crouse: Kenny Atkinson (Nets)
The Spurs were essentially forced to trade away Kawhi Leonard, and Gregg Popovich picked up the pieces and made the postseason. Doc Rivers took a Clippers team whose front office appeared to de-emphasize this campaign (perhaps as part of a plan to pursue Leonard this offseason) and improbably delivered the City of L.A.’s only playoff berth. Mike Budenholzer surveyed the Bucks’ roster and implemented a scheme that led Milwaukee to become the best team in the East.

None may be as impressive as Atkinson. The Atkinson-led Nets found their way to the postseason as a result of the coach’s on-court precision in play-calling and off-court player development. Several coaches deserve to be considered for the COY award, but Atkinson tops the field for his work in Brooklyn.

Arthur Hill: Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
Budenholzer transformed the Bucks by emphasizing 3-pointers and defense, posting the league’s best record with a team that won 44 games last season. Antetokounmpo has taken a noticeable leap forward under Budenholzer, who has maximized the Greek Freak’s potential by surrounding him with shooters. Michael Malone, Kenny Atkinson, Steve Clifford and Doc Rivers all deserve consideration, but Budenholzer stands out for turning the Bucks into legitimate title contenders.

Luke Adams: Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
In a crowded field of Coach of the Year candidates for 2018/19, Budenholzer wasn’t necessarily the one who did the most with the least, but he had a major hand in the Bucks‘ breakthrough season. Even those of us that were high on Milwaukee entering the season didn’t expect this — the team’s 60 wins were an NBA high, and its +8.6 net rating was the best mark since the 2016/17 Warriors.

Although much was made of Budenholzer’s ability to unlock the Bucks’ offensive potential by spacing the floor around Antetokounmpo with shooters, his work on the other end of the court impressed me more. Milwaukee ranked 18th in the league in defensive rating in 2017/18, and its offseason additions – including Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova – weren’t exactly All-Defense contenders. The Bucks were nonetheless the hardest team to score on at the rim in 2018/19 despite rarely fouling, and improved their overall defensive rating to a league-best 104.9.

Dana Gauruder: Doc Rivers (Clippers)
Stripped of his title as president of basketball operations a couple years ago, Rivers was able to fully concentrate on what he does best. He did a masterful job of massaging victories out of an ever-changing roster. The Clippers won 48 games despite trading their top scorer (Tobias Harris) at the deadline. They also changed centers and shooting guards in mid-stream and had a rookie point guard running the show. Yet they got better as they went along, going 18-8 after the first week of February.

Who is your pick for Coach of the Year? Share your choices and your thoughts in the comment section below!


Still to come:

  • Sixth Man of the Year
  • Most Improved Player
  • Rookie of the Year
  • Defensive Player of the Year
  • Most Valuable Player

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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19 thoughts on “Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Coach Of The Year

    • Nebraska Tim

      Agreed, that was a really impressive year from Clifford.

      I still see Bud getting it, but I think Clifford will make the top 5 in voting.

  1. x%sure

    Atkinson’s candidacy, looking good after gm 1 vs Philly, took a hit with gm 2, which had disrespect written all over it. The refs were calling standing-still fouls for the benefit of Embiid but the Sixers were not winning by enough yet under that ticky-tack regime. So they let him stage a full-on attack on Jarrett Allen’s head and continue, crowd roaring. Kurucs’ dainty response got the same call and the game was over at halftime, despite the enthusiasm of the commentators. Ridiculous.

    The Bucks will be the ones hanging the trophies…

    • D$!LLKU$H-og

      Ed Davis only played 5 minutes due to an ankle injury. Dudley didn’t play at all because he was punched in the throat by Mike Scott in game 1. Allen takes a vicious elbow to the face from Embiid.

      I’m always so impressed with Kenny and how he never blames the refs.

      Here’s some sound bytes from this series:
      End of game 1 Doris Burke said “That was a foul on Jimmy Butler about 3 seconds ago!” When they finally called it on him. After Mike Scott hit Dudley Steve Jabby says “I’d give him a flagrant 1 just to set a tone”. Common foul call. And that’s why Allen took that elbow. The refs lost control of the sixers and the crowd and did their best to help Philly win.

      • x%sure

        Scott is dirty all the time, not just the occasional antic-maker. That is what Embiid is said to do, antics.

        This is after gm3, and the refs still seem out of balance, though usually in the way of tickytack bailout calls for Philly. The Nets offense is a problem though; they seem too frantic, not sure what to do about a shotblocker. Maybe they’re too fired up.

  2. coldbeer

    Nick Nurse. For every reason Budenholzer deserves the award Nurse does more. Especially considering they were managing Kawhi’s workload and ego all year and trying to impress him to stay. Nurse rolled out far more starting 5s than the Bucks. By all accounts Nurse coached Kawhi to his requirements and also kept the group together very well. He didn’t lose the room. A+

    • klarmore11

      Let’s look at five of main reasons Bud deserves the award: 60 wins, league’s best defensive rating, 16 win improvement, 4th best offensive rating, 40-12 vs. the rest of the East. Nurse’s Raptors: 58 wins, league’s fifth best defensive rating, 1 win LESS than last year, 5th best offensive rating, 36-16 vs. the rest of the East.

      So how exactly, for every reason Bud deserves it, does Nurse deserve it more? Because Bud tops him in all of them.

    • Nebraska Tim

      So, I love Nick Nurse. Love him. Watched a ton of Raptors games.

      He wouldn’t make my top three this year though.

      He did a solid job in his first year with lots of challenges, but he was supposedly giving up regular season wins for future playoff success (which still may very well be the case). I like that he experimented and tried new things, but in my opinion he’s just not COY material this year.

    • danktoots

      LOL this take. Look at the Bucks advanced stats last year and compare them to this year. Now look at how little the personnel has changed. Then compare the Bucks and Raptors advanced stats and records.

      Also, no one who wears a suit as terrible as Nurse’s in game 1 vs Orlando deserves any kind of award.

  3. Guest617

    luke walton dealt with more toxic poison in one year than most coaches experience in a life time – luke walton deserved it!

    • azcrook

      Yes…..for all of the crap that he had to put with….if Walton doesn’t get the Coach of the Year….he deserves a medal for persevering with the Magic, Ball family, and the Lebron circus acts and still maintains his sanity

  4. johnstodder

    I’m in LA, not Milwaukee or Orlando or Indianapolis, so I’m obviously afflicted by having watched Doc Rivers every day for years, but I’ve never seen any coach/manager in any sport create something out of nothing like Doc Rivers has done since CP3 left. This season has been masterful in design and execution.

  5. noahrnoahr

    Dave Joerger. Not because I actually think he’s coach of the year, but because he did a great job and got fired.

    • x%sure

      He left Memphis with that kind of talk also… gotta believe he will be in demand still.

  6. IgorBStrange

    This article is pure BS because not a single mention of Mike Malone and the job he has done in Denver. Consider that;
    1) Denver did not make the playoffs last year and right now sit as the 2nd best record in the West.
    2) Denver is the 2nd youngest team in the NBA
    3) Denver had the most games missed by starters this season including their 1st round pick missing the entire season and playoffs yet STILL got that unexpectedly good record.
    4) All the so-called “experts” were totally wrong about the Nuggets both record-wise and playoffs situation.
    This above and the fact that the HC of The Nets mentioned as a possible Coach of the Year? Are you kidding me? Are the Nets the 2nd best record in the East? Is the East as tough as the West?
    Every year under Mike Malone the Nuggets have improved their record. The previous two seasons they missed the playoffs by one game with records that would have landed the Nuggets good playoff berths if they were in the East each of those seasons.
    So why ignore Mike Malone? Just giving out participation trophies to lesser coaches? Hoping if you ignore Mike Malone and the Nuggets they will just go away before they become a pain in the arse?
    Also, why are all your candidates from the East? 2 points for participation trophies.

    • Luke Adams

      Fair or not, the Coach of the Year award is often about expectations vs. results. Despite the Nuggets missing the playoffs last year, they won 46 games and were expected to get better this year (their preseason over/under projection was 48.5 wins). They still managed to exceed those expectations and Malone deserves a lot of the credit for that — he’d be on my ballot if I had one. But it’s not unreasonable to argue that Budenholzer’s and Atkinson’s teams exceeded expectations to a greater degree (both finished 10+ games ahead of their preseason over/under projections).

      As I mentioned in the post, there was a crowded field this year for this award. I think there are at least 5-6 guys that have a really strong case for it (the ones that Arthur mentioned + Popovich, McMillan, etc.). Not putting Malone at the top of that list doesn’t mean he was ignored!

  7. IgorBStrange

    I agree on the crowded field, but this Okie leans towards Mike Malone because all season long he had his troops, the 2nd youngest team, the most missed games and no all-stars at the time, fighting the Warriors for best in the west.
    Now I will give Milwaukee and Brooklyn credit, but, IF they played in the west would they be “that” good?
    Either, eyether, or I watched Denver beat up on OKC all season and now they are up on SA and Pop 3-2. To me that is more impressive. Was that expected? Not by the talking heads on TNT or NBA TV. Heck, ESPN’s the Jump predicted after game 1 a sweep by SA.

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