By Matt Zampini and Elan-Paolo Decarlo
Of all the major sports, the NBA has the most meaningful awards system. The MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player and All-NBA teams from year to year serve as the perfect snapshot of what the league looked like. Running down the list of the recipients looks like a who’s who of Hall of Famers and league legends. However, the award that gets most overlooked is the Coach of the Year. Oftentimes, the media struggles to actually award the best coach. They usually go with the best story. This year was no different. On Tuesday, it was announced that Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer had won the award. Well, we had some disagreements about that here at the Daily Campus.
Zamp: In my opinion, Atlanta’s Budenholzer was the right choice for this season’s Coach of the Year. Just a year ago, the Hawks finished in the eighth slot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with a 38-44 record. This year, the Hawks opened everyone’s eyes with a 19-game winning streak in the middle of the season, en route to the No. 1 seed and a 60-22 record. The jump from where they finished last year is amazing, and a lot of credit has to be given to Budenholzer. The Hawks don’t have any superstars on their team. They have a bunch of solid players that all execute their role to help the team win. They didn’t have the best record, but they weren’t far behind the Warriors, a team that has legitimate stars on its team. Budenholzer deserves a lot of recognition for where he has brought the Hawks from a season ago.
Elan: There is no disputing that coach Budz had a great year. But to call him the best coach in the NBA is incorrect. Steve Kerr, in his first year at the helm, took the Golden State Warriors from a middle of the pack playoff team to one of the best regular season teams in NBA history. The Warriors finished 67-15. Only nine other teams in NBA history have ever finished with at least 67 wins. Of those nine, seven went on to win the title. Putting up one of the most successful regular seasons in his debut season is an accomplishment that should have been rewarded. Last year, the Warriors finished 51-31, good for sixth in the Western Conference. A 16-win improvement is the most ever for a team that won 50 plus the season before. Steve Kerr made history.
Zamp: I can’t deny what Kerr did this season in his first year as a head coach. I wouldn’t call him the best coach in the NBA; in fact I wouldn’t even call Budenholzer the best coach in the NBA. But we’re talking about the 2014-15 season, and what Budenholzer accomplished with the Hawks this year was incredible. I mean they won 22 more games than they did last season, albeit in a weaker conference, but he didn’t have the star power that Kerr did in Golden State. The Hawks even had a better winning percentage against the West (.733) than they did against the East (.731). The fact that the Hawks were a No. 8 seed a season ago, and to become the No. 1 seed this year with the team that he had has to be rewarded.
Elan: You said it. The East is a weaker conference. It is easier to make a leap from solid to very good. In the West, where seven teams won 50 or more games, making that leap is almost miraculous. Kerr replaced Mark Jackson, a perfectly fine head coach. He had his flaws, namely that he ran an uncreative and static offense. Kerr came in and opened it up. The Warriors had the league’s highest point differential, finished in the top two in offensive and defensive efficiency and evolved into a juggernaut the likes that hasn’t been seen in a decade. But yeah, let’s give the Coach of the Year award to someone else. That makes sense.