The votes are in for the SBNation Readers' Choice Award for NBA Coach of the Year, and I'm
frightened pleased to say that you guys know approximately as much about basketball as the geniuses who actually vote on these things. SBNation voters picked Raptors' coach Sam Mitchell as the Coach of the Year in a relatively tight vote, just as he was chosen by writers and broadcasters for the actual award last week. Mitchell beat out Avery Johnson of Dallas and Jerry Sloan of Utah, who came in second and third in the SBNation voting (that order was reversed in the official balloting).
It's hard to argue with the Mitchell choice, although I myself went with Sloan. Mitchell started the season on the hot seat, with something like 35 new players after a 27-55 season. The team started 2-8 as they were getting to know each other, and when All Star Chris Bosh went down with an injury in December, it seemed that the Raps' season was over. But after dropping to 13-19 in the first game of 2007, the Raptors closed the season 34-16, won the Atlantic Division easily, and secured the third seed in the playoffs. Certainly much of the credit goes to new GM Bryan Colangelo who essentially brought in a new team to put around Bosh (all four members of their regular starting lineup were newcomers), but Mitchell melded them into a unit on the court and he was recognized for his efforts.
On the other hand, Sloan fails to win Coach of the Year yet again. Obviously the Jazz' poor finish after a red-hot start hurt his chances (they lost six of their final nine), but it's hard to imagine how this guy has never won this award. If you watch the Utah Jazz play basketball, you don't come away saying 'Wow, those guys have a lot of talent' or 'Hey, they just shot the lights out.' No, you say, 'Man, that team is really well-coached.' There aren't many teams in the league who leave you with that as the primary impression. Maybe the Spurs. Definitely the Jazz.
But SBNation voters and national sportwriters and broadcasters choose Sam Mitchell over Jerry Sloan, even though Sloan's wife died of pancreatic cancer in 2004. Heartless bastards.
Here are the complete results from the SBNation vote:
Sam Mitchell - 97
Avery Johnson - 68
Jerry Sloan - 67
Jeff Van Gundy - 58
Don Nelson - 43
Mike D'Antoni - 14
Scott Skiles - 11
Greg Popovich - 6
Nate McMillan - 5
Doc Rivers - 2
Dwane Casey - 2
George Karl - 2
Pat Riley - 1
Isiah Thomas - 1
Now, I'm sure you, like me, are scratching your head that someone would waste a vote on some of those guys at the bottom of the list. And sure, it seems strange to vote for Dwane Casey when he was fired half way through the season. But if you consider that the Wolves were 20-20 under Casey and 12-30 under Randy Wittman, you can certainly make a case. As for Doc Rivers, who actually received two separate third place votes (so it was two different insane people), he did do his part to ensure that the Celtics have a good shot at Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Harder to justify are votes for Pat Riley or Isiah Thomas. I mean, Riley actually took time off during the season. With only 30 candidates (31 counting Dwane Casey I guess), you'd think that actually showing up to work would be a pre-requisite of the award. As for Isiah, sure he won more games than Hall of Famer Larry Brown. But winning 33 games with the highest payroll in basketball does NOT warrant a "Zeke, you're doin' a heckuva job" in my book. Of course, Dolan gave him an extension. Maybe Dolan is reading Posting and Toasting.
But even more strange is that both Riley and Thomas also received votes in the OFFICIAL balloting. What the hell is that? I mean, some schlub blog-reader can cast a joke-vote for whomever they like. But whoever voted for Pat Riley or Isiah Thomas in the real balloting should be forced to turn in their credential. They've made a mockery of Awards voting. This ain't the Grammys people. Take it seriously!