No coach has won the NBA’s Coach of The Year award twice in a row. The award almost always goes to the guy who seemed to improve his team the most – or do the most with a weak roster. That makes it hard to go back-to-back, since last year’s winner is guaranteed to be coming off a solid campaign.
Steve Kerr and the Warriors are the exception that prove the rule. Kerr was overlooked in 2014, despite leading the Warriors to the best record in the NBA. Voters just couldn’t deny him again this year, though, as Golden State recorded the best regular season in league history (73-9). That’s the kind of performance you need to break the “overachiever” trend.
Who are the early favorites to win the award next year? Despite what I just said, two coaches who coach really good teams. Ha. Woops.
Odds to Win 2016-17 NBA Coach of the Year
Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs): 11/2
Gregg Popovich is almost universally acknowledged to be the league’s best coach … by far. He’s had his Spurs at the top of the league for an eternity, or so it feels. He’s a three-time award winner and tops the early odds for one main reason: San Antonio could see a lot of roster turnover next year. (Tim Duncan, the face of the franchise may finally retire; so could Manu Ginobili.) If “Pop” can lead the mutating Spurs to another top-two finish in the West, he’ll be a hard-to-overlook contender.
Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors): 23/4
As mentioned, no coach has won this award two years in a row, but Kerr is the perfect person to do so. At this point, the healthy version of the Golden State Warriors look almost unbeatable and could take a run at besting their brand new regular season record. If reigning MVP Steph Curry struggles with injuries next year (like the 2016 playoffs) and the Warriors stay near the top of the league, all the better for Kerr’s chances. That’s some serious adversity overcome.
Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics): 7/1
Unlike Popovich and Kerr, Brad Stevens doesn’t have a team a title contender on his hands. But he’s already shown he can get quite a bit out of his young squad, leading the Celtics to a 48-win season in 2015-16. There’s no reason to expect a regression and, if they can capture a division title next year, Stevens will be in the mix for Coach of the Year.
Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City Thunder): 9/1
After one season on the job, Billy Donovan still has a lot to prove in OKC. But the Thunder are perennial threats to knock off the Warriors and Spurs at the top of the West. If they finally become a top-two team next year, Donovan will get a long look. If Kevin Durant heads elsewhere in free agency, expectations will be extremely low and Donovan will be able to play the “overachiever” card a lot more readily.
Doc Rivers (Los Angeles Clippers): 12/1
Doc Rivers has been through a lot of adversity in just three years in Los Angeles. His Clippers had to deal with a racist owner in 2014-15 and lost their two best players on the same night in the 2016 playoffs. Free of injuries, Los Angeles should be one of the best teams in the NBA. Like the Thunder, they’ll be hoping to run with the Spurs and Warriors next season. If they take the next step, Rivers will have a solid Coach of the Year case.
Erik Spoelstra (Miami): 15/1
Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta): 15/1
Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors): 18/1
Stan Van Gundy (Detroit Pistons): 18/1
Scott Brooks (Washington Wizards): 20/1
Rick Carlisle (Dallas Mavericks): 22/1
Terry Stotts (Portland Trail Blazers): 22/1
Frank Vogel (Indiana Pacers): 25/1
Fred Hoiberg (Chicago Bulls): 25/1
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Steve Kerr) CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)