Denver Nuggets’ Michael Malone falls short in NBA Coach of the Year voting
Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone didn't win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award for the 2018-19 season, the results of which were revealed at the league’s annual award show Monday night in Los Angeles. Ultimately, Malone finished third behind Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks and Doc Rivers of the L.A. Clippers.
After improving their win total in each of Malone’s first three seasons, the Nuggets made the most significant jump in their coach’s tenure, going from 46 wins last year to 54 this past season. That eight-win improvement also saw Denver jump from the ninth seed to the second seed in the Western Conference, which clinched homecourt advantage throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs.
"This is four years in the making,” Malone said following Denver’s playoff-clinching win over the Boston Celtics in March. “Two years in a row coming up just shy, one game short. Using that as a motivation for tonight's moment. I'm so happy for all of our guys. We put a lot of work into this. We realized early on in the season that we have a chance to be a special team.”
Throughout the season, Malone preached patience and emphasized the importance of defensive improvement, which ultimately saw Denver jump from 23rd to 10th in defensive rating.
“Every year he's doing better things,” Juancho Hernangomez said following the season. “Last season we were one of the worst defensive teams, this year we were near the top. Every year he knows what we have to improve. I'm sure he's working right now on what the team can do better."
The Nuggets showcased resilience throughout the season. Whether it was the team’s top-ranked defense in the fourth quarter or their 13-3 record in games decided by three points or less (which was tops in the league), Denver continued to push through various injuries to key players in order to maintain one of the top spots in the conference.
"He (Malone) improved a lot,” Will Barton said. “Just his relationship with the players, his trust in the players. He did a hell of a job. Just to see his growth is phenomenal."