Erik Spoelstra already won one coach of the year award this offseason. Will he add another award to his resume next month?
Spoelstra was named the co-winner of the inaugural Michael H. Goldberg National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award earlier this month, sharing the honor with Houston’s Mike D’Antoni. On Friday, it was revealed Spoelstra is a finalist for the NBA’s Coach of the Year award that will be announced June 26 during the first ever NBA awards show televised by TNT.
The three finalists for the NBA’s award are Spoelstra, D’Antoni and Gregg Popovich.
The only time the Heat had a Coach of the Year was in 1997 when Pat Riley earned the honor. Miami finished with a 61-21 record that season and lost to the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.
We made the case for Spoelstra to get the award … and we made the case for Spoelstra not to get the award. Do you think he should get it?
Why Erik Spoelstra should win the award: Because Spoelstra and the Heat made history this season. After an 11-30 start, the Heat bounced back to record a 30-11 record over the second half of the season to finish 41-41. Miami became the first team in league history to go from 19 under to finish the season at .500. Yeah, the Heat missed the playoffs. But that’s still an incredible accomplishment. Throw in the fact that Miami made its historic second-half run with seven new faces on the roster and Chris Bosh missing the entire season, and the accomplishment looks even more impressive. Now add Justise Winslow’s season-ending injury to the mix, and it’s hard to explain how the Heat did what they did.
Spoelstra and his coaching staff found a way to keep a locker room that could have gone its separate ways together despite a very rough start. And they found a way to keep players who could have had free agency on their minds engaged. Two key contributors (James Johnson and Luke Babbitt) were on expiring contracts and another three key contributors (Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington and Willie Reed) have options in their contracts that could turn them into free agents this summer. Plus D’Antoni and Popovich have MVP candidates on their teams in James Harden and Kawhi Leonard. Spoelstra does not have that luxury. In other words, give Spoelstra the award.
Why Erik Spoelstra shouldn’t win the award: Because Spoelstra and the Heat didn’t make the playoffs. Only three coaches in NBA history have been named the Coach of the Year with a record that was .500 or below. Doc Rivers was the last one to do it when he earned the honor after leading the Magic to a 41-41 record and finishing one game short of the playoffs in 2000. So if history is any indication, the award should go to D’Antoni or Popovich, who both made the playoffs with winning records. Popovich and the Spurs even made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before being eliminated by the Warriors. You can’t give the award to a .500 coach.