Doc Rivers has been named one of three finalists for NBA Coach of the Year, along with Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks and Michael Malone of the Denver Nuggets. The award will be presented at the annual NBA awards show on June 24 in Santa Monica.
Rivers has won Coach of the Year once in his 20-year coaching career, as a rookie head coach for the Orlando Magic in 2000. This Clippers team has been compared to that Magic group throughout the season, often by Rivers himself, because of the heart and hustle both teams personified. LA was projected to have a win total in the low-to-mid 30s and miss the playoffs at the start of the season, but the team substantially exceed expectations with 48 wins and a feisty six-game first-round series against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors.
This is the first time Rivers has finished among the top 3 as head coach of the Clippers. He faces tough competition from the other two finalists, however. Budenholzer guided the Bucks to the best record in the NBA after they were essentially an average team last year. He also coaxed Giannis Antetokounmpo to a likely MVP campaign, and though playoff results aren’t factored in, has Milwaukee in the driver’s seat to advance to the NBA finals.
Meanwhile, Malone took a Nuggets team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2013 to the second seed in the Western Conference with three of his four best players under the age of 25. Rivers didn’t execute nearly as dramatic of a turnaround as his competitors in Los Angeles, but he did have to coach a relatively new roster at the start of the season that was reshuffled once again at the trade deadline. The Bucks and Nuggets also both boast MVP candidates while the Clippers famously have no All-Stars.
The nomination comes in the same week that Rivers was named a finalist for the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors professionalism with the media and the fans. LA is fortunate to still have Rivers in tow after he officially signed an extension this offseason to remain head coach of the Clippers.