Coach of the Year
The Suns recorded 54 wins, tied for 10th most in franchise history ... Won nine straight games from 11/22 - 12/9 ... Won 11 straight games from 2/8 - 3/6 ... Led the league in scoring at 108.36 points per game, field goal percentage at .479, three-point percentage at .399, free throw percentage at .806 and assists with 26.57 per game.
No coach has ever won back-to-back Red Auerbach Coach of the Year Awards. It's not like Rookie of the Year where you're only a rookie once and therefore not obviously eligible the next year. But a lot of the same thinking goes in to naming the Coach of the Year:
"OK, OK, we get it, you improved your team last year. They should be good again this year, blah, blah, blah..."
Well, we could have a pioneer this season, and his name is Mike D'Antoni. The Suns coach, who won the trophy last year after guiding Phoenix to 62 wins, a 33-game turnaround, is a leading candidate this year because of his team's personnel turnover. D'Antoni had to work eight new players in his all-out, baseline-to-baseline basketball style. He also had to compensate for the loss of all-world forward Amare Stoudemire to microfracture surgery just before the season began.
Relying on his MVP point guard Steve Nash and Swiss Army Knife forward Shawn Marion, D'Antoni deftly incorporated Boris Diaw, James Jones, Eddie House, Kurt Thomas and late-season pickup Tim Thomas into the Suns' style, all the while winning 54 games and another Pacific Division title.
An eight-game slide, you say? A minor miracle, we say. D'Antoni has more than proven he can wield the clipboard with the best.
-- Rob Peterson
From the media:
The Suns' Mike D'Antoni adapted to the losses of Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson and easily incorporated the newcomers Kurt Thomas, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. The Suns' offense still leads the league. But history could be unkind; no coach has ever won the honor in consecutive years.
-- New York Times
A fan's take:
D'Antoni is not a coach to compromise. He knows the strategy he wants to implement: RUN! SHOOT! SCORE! He made a legitimate three-point threat of a defensive role player (Raja Bell), a starting point-center of a bench-warming point guard (Boris Diaw) and while he runs the show off the court, he lets the general run the show during the game (Steve Nash). He's dealt with injuries to his only post players (Amare Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas), while taking over GM duties in the middle of the season when Bryan Colangelo inexplicably defected to Toronto. Granted, he has real talent on his roster, with Nash, Bell, Diaw, All-Star Shawn Marion and Leandro Barbosa, but that is a pretty small line-up! Still, D'Antoni has pushed his strategy all the way to the playoffs, when on paper, the Suns had no right to be there.
-- Erika - Phoenix, Ariz.
Coach of the Year - The Candidates:
Mike D'Antoni - Phoenix Suns
Mike Dunleavy Sr. - Los Angeles Clippers
Avery Johnson - Dallas Mavericks
Gregg Popovich - San Antonio Spurs
Flip Saunders - Detroit Pistons
Others worth consideration: Mike Brown, Rick Carlisle, Lawrence Frank, Mike Fratello, Pat Riley, Byron Scott
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images