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Thread: Stein Coach of the Year

  1. #1

    Default Stein Coach of the Year

    McMillan, Fratello match wits, credentials

    You see Seattle at Memphis on the Tuesday schedule and the reaction is inevitable.

    Isn't it?

    OK, maybe not. So let us clarify. Allow us to explain why the importance of Sonics at Grizz in late March extends beyond a chance for Seattle to clinch its first playoff berth in three seasons:

    Of greatest significance, it's a matchup featuring two of the leading Coach of the Year candidate. You have the foremost Coach of the Year candidate, specifically, up against a Coach of the Half-Year candidate.

    It's Seattle's Nate McMillan, who sits atop our Coach of the Year ballot with just over three weeks left in the regular season, matching play calls against Memphis' Mike Fratello, whose success resurrecting the Grizzlies has spawned one of the season's more interesting debates. McMillan appears to have the edge over Fratello after the Sonics' 102-99 victory at Memphis on Tuesday.

    The issue: Should a coach who doesn't coach a full season be eligible to win his profession's highest individual honor?

    Our stance: Why not? The best coaching job is the best coaching job. And it takes a good one to take over 16 games into a season, with an injury-ravaged team sitting at 5-11, and haul that team back into playoff contention in the ever-competitive West.

    However ...

    Fratello shouldn't beat out McMillan. Truth is, it'll be tough for The Czar just to crack the top five on my ballot. But it's not because he hasn't coached enough games.

    It's simply because the Coach of the Year race, as usual, is teeming with worthy contenders. Fratello might not even be leading the Coach of the Half-Year race, because George Karl is 21-6 in Denver after inheriting an underachieving Nuggets squad mired at 17-25. Even Avery Johnson should be considered in the Half-Year category, having helped keep Dallas among the league's elite through countless injuries, a couple of fill-in stints and, ultimately, Don Nelson's resignation.

    The official COY ballot doesn't arrive from the league office until mid-April, but here's a sneak peak at how we're leaning with our votes.

    1. Seattle's Nate McMillan

    It was hard to believe Seattle's 17-3 start, especially after that 30-point loss to the Clippers on Opening Night. Yet it's even tougher to explain how the Sonics, long after that magical launch, remain a force on pace to win 57 games. Just three more victories and they'll clinch the Northwest Division ridiculously early, even though Seattle has a roster filled with free agents-to-be, starting with McMillan himself.

    To emphasize its staying power, Seattle just reeled off a 8-1 stretch despite losing Vladimir Radmanovic to a leg injury and in spite of enforcer Danny Fortson's deteriorating relationship with the coach.

    The world keeps waiting for the Sonics to re-enter this atmosphere, and you can be sure that plenty of folks will pick them to be upset by Houston or Sacramento in the first round of the playoffs. McMillan, however, has to be the COY choice. Has to be. While true he has two All-Stars (Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis), McMillan also has no dependable centers and only undersized power forwards (Fortson and Reggie Evans). And still his Sonics have ranked in the top three in rebound margin all season.

    2. Indiana's Rick Carlisle

    It won't surprise Pacer People if Carlisle fails to win his second COY trophy, because it's been the sort of season in Indy when the locals feel as though every conceivable external force is conspiring against them.

    But know this: Carlisle has never coached better, and this is a guy whose first three seasons in the hot seat produced records of 50-32, 50-32 and 61-21. Carlisle provides the structure and optimism for a team that was supposed to contend for a championship ... but which hasn't seen its projected starting lineup (Jamaal Tinsley, Reggie Miller, Ron Artest, Jeff Foster and Jermaine O'Neal) together even once this season because of injuries and the suspensions stemming from the Nov. 19 melee at Detroit.

    No wonder O'Neal was moved to make a passionate plea to us the other night in search of our COY vote for Carlisle, just as Carlisle has been known to call writers to lobby them for award votes. "I can't believe," O'Neal said, "that he hasn't even gotten a Coach of the Month award [this season]."

    Knowing Carlisle, who never credits himself for anything, all he wants is the playoff berth that we're betting the Pacers wind up getting.

    3. Chicago's Scott Skiles

    Told you the field was deep. How deep? Well, it's like this: We can't figure out a way to get poor Skiles any higher on our ballot even though the Bulls already in Year 7 of their interminable post-MJ rebuilding project are suddenly challenging for home-court advantage in the first round of the East playoffs.

    Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler actually qualify as grizzled vets in this locker room, yet somehow Skiles has rallied the babes from an 0-9 start to the point that they're winning even when the schedule is toughest. In February and March, months filled with road games, Chicago is a combined 16-11. (So much for the collapse many feared.)

    And in spite of its inexperience, Chicago still leads the league in opponent field-goal percentage at .420, ranking ahead of mighty San Antonio. Did any of this seem possible when the Bulls were 0-9? Sixty games later, even the skeptics would have to agree that these Bulls in one of the season's biggest surprises have taken on Skiles' gritty, gutty persona.

    4. Phoenix's Mike D'Antoni

    Judging by the on-air plaudits for D'Antoni these days, chances are he'll place higher on some ballots. And we'll have no problem with that, because D'Antoni's commitment to nonstop running can't be overlooked on the list of factors contributing to the Suns' amazing rise to elitism.

    It surely helps to have Steve Nash as a coach on the floor and Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion catching Nash's passes as well as Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson but don't be fooled: D'Antoni has done plenty of coaching this season with such a young team, especially during the Suns' stunning 31-4 start. That, remember, was before D'Antoni had veterans Jim Jackson and Walter McCarty to bring off the bench. In the first half of the season, the coach had virtually no bench. Dealing with depth issues falls directly on the coach and D'Antoni has coped masterfully, as evidenced by the Suns' ever-improving chances of posting the West's best record.

    5. Denver's George Karl

    Don't be silly. Karl noses out Fratello, but not because Furious George is our former NBA Fastbreak colleague. We simply cannot overlook the fact that Karl, despite spotting Fratello almost two months, has the Nuggets on the verge of passing the Grizzlies for the seventh spot in the West.

    The schedule has undoubtedly helped, as only 10 of Denver's 26 games under Karl thus far came against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. But it's not all schedule. Karl's decisions to hand key roles to Eduardo Najera and DerMarr Johnson, along with his role in sparking the resurgence of Carmelo Anthony and better team-wide ball movement, are equally pivotal factors.

    Fratello, meanwhile, merits serious kudos for holding Memphis together through a spate of injuries, including the nearly two-month absence of leading scorer Pau Gasol, but it's actually the Grizzlies not the Nuggets who look like the team Minnesota is chasing for the West's final playoff spot. The Grizz, strangely, have looked vulnerable lately, even though they're as healthy as they've been for months.

    Honorable Mention

    Besides Fratello, you hate to exclude Washington's Eddie Jordan from the top five, since Jordan has been forced to coach long stretches without either Larry Hughes or Antawn Jamison. But, again, the competition is brutal.

    Both of the Van Gundy brothers also merit a mention, with Houston's Jeff ahead of Miami's Stan because Stan has Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade and also because JVG had to relax his slow-down tendencies and work with management to tweak the roster when the Rockets started 6-11.

    And we also have to recognize Boston's unflappable Doc Rivers, who has as many big egos to massage as any coach in the league: Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and Ricky Davis.
    Don't ask Marvin Harrison what he did during the bye week. "Batman never told where the Bat Cave is," he explained.

  2. #2
    Administrator/ The Real Jay Jay@Section12's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stein Coach of the Year

    Rick's not been perfect, and we've found some minor things to complain about.

    But, as I told everyone around me Saturday night that was declaring "the Pacers suck" - hey, our "C" team is going to make the playoffs in the East.

    That's unbelievable.
    Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
    Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
    Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
    Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
    And life itself, rushing over me
    Life itself, the wind in black elms,
    Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you

  3. #3
    How are you here? Kegboy's Avatar
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    Northside Bias

    Default Re: Stein Coach of the Year

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay@Section204
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote
    Rick's not been perfect, and we've found some minor things to complain about.

    But, as I told everyone around me Saturday night that was declaring "the Pacers suck" - hey, our "C" team is going to make the playoffs in the East.

    That's unbelievable.
    True that.
    Come to the Dark Side -- There's cookies!

  4. #4
    Banned Destined4Greatness's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stein Coach of the Year

    O'neal tells it like it is

  5. #5
    Administrator Unclebuck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stein Coach of the Year

    I always have trouble with deciding who I would vote for coach of the year.

    Should I vote for the team that is the best coached team this season or the team that overachieved the most this season.

    if you vote for the coach that has gotten his team as over-achieved the most, then i would vote for Nate

    As far as the best coahced team , I would vote for Scot Skiles.

  6. #6
    Oh What Could Have Been! fwpacerfan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stein Coach of the Year

    It be VERY fitting if Carlisle got coach of the year. He hasn't been perfect but considering he has had to go with 75 different lineups consisting of something like 97 different players I think he has done a great job. I think this team could win the 1st round series, especially if JO can come back. Dale Davis has been much more of an asset than I ever thought he would be. I'm salivating thinking about the lineup next year w/Artest and Tinsley alongside JO, Davis and SJax or Freddie. I like Foster coming off of the bench - he gives energy and rebounding. I think Carlisle has finally figured out the roles of the guys he has now and he could easily insert JO into that for a playoff run. The only thing that would screw things up is if the team goes back to the throw the ball to JO and stand around syndrome they were known to get into.
    "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
    - Benjamin Franklin

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Stein Coach of the Year

    When ONeal got here, he was too often a whiny little boy. But he has turned out to be a heck of a man. He was angry as hell when Carlisle got here after ONeal was (let's face it) double crossed by mangament. But he has given Carlisle his full support and hasn't held a grudge. Right on.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Stein Coach of the Year

    Toronto analysts were just mentioning how, if the Pacers were to earn a playoff spot, they would vote Carlisle for COY. It's nice to see him getting the respect he deserves. I like to hear that.

    One of our TV guys paraphrased DW as saying that Carlisle has never ONCE complained about the injuries/suspensions all year long. I like that - doesn't give the players a reason to slack off.

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