OKC Thunder bench boss Billy Donovan and Bucks Mike Budenholzer selected co-Coach of the Year winners
First, let me pick my jaw up off the ground. I’m not surprised that OKC Thunder head coach Billy Donovan got recognized. He deserves this award let’s get that straight.
What I’m shocked about is who he’s sharing it with.
How Nick Nurse got overlooked is more than a little surprising to me. In a recent article, I outlined why the Raptors coach seemed destined to win this year. After all, he lost the NBA Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard and also another starter in Danny Green.
His team had the fifth most man-games lost due to injury and was the only team currently seeded in the playoffs to be among the top five of teams with that many injuries.
Sure, Coach Bud has the best record in the NBA but his team has the MVP and also faced numerous opponents who were missing their stars or core players.
That’s simply my opinion, but it does feel like Nurse should be the man sharing this with Donovan.
Billy Donovan co-Coach of the Year
As for Billy Donovan he has delivered an incredible season and got his squad into the playoffs when no one even had them close to sniffing a playoff berth.
One notable factor which should be mentioned is the coach’s relationship with Chris Paul. While CP3 has taken a very professional approach this season if Donovan didn’t get his veteran point guard’s buy-in early in the process then this team never builds into what they became this season. He needed Paul to be on the same page with him on the three point guard system. He also needed Paul to invest in mentoring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the youngsters.
Moreover, the fact Dennis Schroder who hasn’t always been open-minded about playing off the bench has embraced that role. Credit to both Donovan and Paul in getting his buy-in to that role.
Nurse missed out by one vote of making it a three-way tie as per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. In 2017, Erik Spoelstra (Heat) and Mike D’Antoni (Rockets) were co-winners.
The other coaches who received votes were the Grizzlies Taylor Jenkins, Pacers Nate McMillan, Erik Spoelstra of the Heat, Celtics Brad Stevens, and Lakers Frank Vogel.
This year there were a lot of great candidates to be fair and it’s a real honor of Billy Donovan to land the hardware (even if he has to share it).
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Jenkins brought along the young Grizzlies quickly, McMillan kept his Pacers relevant despite missing Victor Oladipo for a good portion of the season, Spoelstra is like Popovich in that he could be a candidate every season.
Vogel has the Lakers sitting atop the West (albeit with two top-five players) and the Brad Stevens love is interesting given his team is third but likely tied to how well Boston performs on both sides of the hardwood and perhaps more about the clubs sustained elite level.
While this award is voted on by the coaches there is a second Coach of the Year award that the media votes on (the Red Auerbach Trophy). I’m going out on a limb to say Nick Nurse will win that award in a landslide.
After an offseason when many fans and media wondered if Billy Donovan would even have a job with the OKC Thunder this season this award is a credit to Sam Presti for retaining him and to the man himself for how he’s driven the success of this iteration of the OKC Thunder.
Congratulations Billy Donovan on your major accomplishment. Well deserved sir, well deserved!