Two years ago, the National Basketball Players Association launched its own annual awards, voted on the players because – as LeBron James said at the time – “Guys [can] recognize the guys they play against every night and what they do for their franchises.”
Now the league’s head coaches will have that same opportunity with the National Basketball Coaches Association’s establishment of the Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award. Like the NBPA awards, this one will be voted on by peers, in this case the league’s 30 coaches. Who better to assess a coach’s performance than the men (or some day, women) against that person game-plans and navigates the challenges of an NBA season.
The more traditional NBA Coach of the Year award, which dates back to 1962-63, will continue. Like most of the league’s annual awards, it is voted on by a media panel of writers, reporters and broadcasters.
There’s another mission, though, behind the NBCA’s new hardware: Honoring Goldberg, that group’s longtime executive director. Goldberg joined the NBCA in 1980, six years after it was founded, and has helped guide it through an era of the NBA’s greatest growth. He helped the coaches make significant strides in retirement benefits and disability insurance, as well as sponsorship deals with partners such as Joseph Abboud Clothing and Allen Edmonds Shoes.
A graduate of New York University in 1963 and St. John’s University School of Law in 1966, Goldberg worked for the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. In 1972, he went to work as general counsel for the American Basketball Association under then-commissioner Dave DeBusschere until the NBA-ABA merger in 1976.
For a sense of how long Goldberg has been working behind the scenes in pro basketball, here’s a quote of his from author Terry Pluto’s 1990 book, “Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association.” Of the merger that brought the Pacers, the Spurs, the Nuggets and the Nets into the NBA, Goldberg said: “In 1976, guys were complaining about paying $3.2 million to get into the league Now those same franchises are worth $50 million, $75 million, maybe more. While some people thought the ABA was fleeced by the merger, it turned out to be one of the great business bargains of all time.”
Now, 27 years later after Pluto’s book, the average NBA franchise is valued at $1.25 billion, according to Forbes 2016 report. In aggregate, the four former ABA clubs are said to be worth a total of $4.5 billion. Not a bad return on that $12.8 million combined entry fee. (The Nets, who had to pay an additional $4.8 million for competing in the Knicks’ territory, lead that group at $1.7 billion.)
“This award honors the life work of a great leader, tireless foot soldiers for the best interests of coaches and the NBA and, most importantly, a trusted friend,” said Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, NBCA president.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said of the coaches’ indefatigable advocate: “Michael Goldberg is a legend in basketball circles and has distinguished himself by his relentless advocacy on behalf of NBA coaches and his deep caring for everyone involved with our game.”
Since 2009, the NBCA annually has presented during The Finals its Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, in honor of the former Pistons, Magic, Nets and Cavaliers head coach.