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You would think that coaching in the NBA is a lost art, especially when you look at all the pink slips coaches have been receiving this year. In reality, this season has included some of the best coaching jobs the league has seen in the past several seasons.
With all the difficulties of coaching at the professional ranks, and holding onto a job, it's very easy to understand why these men command the salaries they do.
The beauty of coaching is that there really isn't a right or wrong way to do it, but there is always a better way. Let's take a look at the leading candidates for coach of the year honors and exactly what they've done to warrant consideration:
•We may as well start at the top with Mike D'Antoni of the Phoenix Suns. In addition to the success he has achieved (at the completion of this article, Phoenix had the best record in the league based on winning percentage), the most impressive thing about D'Antoni is the way he got this team to buy into his system. The Suns play to their strengths and expect to win every time they take the floor.
The Suns won 29 games last season. Coming into the year, their two most talented players -- Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion -- were playing out of position.
It's no secret that Stoudemire would prefer to play power forward, and Marion would like to play the three. D'Antoni has done what most good coaches must do -- get players to do what they might believe isn't in their best interest individually for the betterment of the team. Both have bought into their coach's philosophy and have prospered. What's scary is that as good as the Suns are, they may get better come playoff time.
Nate McMillan has gone from the hot seat to the catbird seat.
•Nate McMillan has taken virtually the same (.500) team, with the exception of Danny Fortson, from a year ago and guided the Sonics to a 48-20 record, 13 games ahead of defending Western Conference regular season champion Minnesota.
McMillan has accomplished this feat while half the players on his roster, including its best player, are set to become free agents. The Sonics are winning minus any ability to score consistently in the paint, thanks to McMillan's philosophy of winning with rebounding, fewer turnovers, and better 3-point shooting.
Chemistry is an important factor in the success of any team and nobody displays a better chemistry and understanding of how to win. You'd be surprised at how many teams don't have a clue about how to win.
•I always assumed that Rick Carlisle would be in consideration for coach of the year honors, but I didn't think it would be because the Pacers made the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed. But that is the predicament facing Indiana. I can think of no team in recent NBA history faced with as much adversity, yet what's most impressive is how the Pacers still compete without any sense of pity for themselves.
The goal is still is to win a championship this year. It sounds foolish, but Carlisle has his team committed to that belief. And that is why he is undoubtedly one of the three or four best coaches in the league. You can learn more about a coach's ability when his team faces adversity than when things are going great. You never sense quit in the Pacers' demeanor.
•Has a franchise ever had two different coaches win coach of the year honors in successive seasons? That possibility could become reality with Mike Fratello at the helm in Memphis. Only Denver and the Pacers have dealt with as much adversity, yet all the Grizzlies do is compete.
Without a true superstar, this group best exemplifies team. The Grizzlies are unselfish on both ends of the floor. Hubie Brown laid the foundation, but to continue to win after a horrific start, and all of their injuries, is a credit to Fratello's ability to keep this team focused.
•There are others who deserve mention -- Gregg Popovich, Stan Van Gundy, George Karl, Doc Rivers, Eddie Jordan and Byron Scott. Anyone who must coach those rosters deserves some credit. This could be a year where the award should be shared.
Greg Anthony, an NBA analyst for ESPN and former player, is a regular contributor to Insider.