Pop, Kerr, and popcorn: The Coach of the Year debate

Last season, the Coach of the Year Award was contested by two men. Will this season’s race become a more complicated one? That’s hard to discern before a few weeks of regular-season basketball have run their course. On Nov. 20, not Oct. 20, we might not know all there is to know about this plot point in the NBA season, but we’ll have some actual evidence to work with. As it is, this is a “blind prediction,” given that it comes before a single regular-season basketball has been bounced, shot, passed, blocked, or turned over.

The more specific question at the heart of the Coach of the Year race is this: Will anyone get in the way of Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr?

Our staff was not very coy in answering this question about the “COY.”



Gregg Popovich usually just goes about his business by ingeniously resting players, getting the most out of unknown bench players and continuing to squeeze every last drop of productivity from Tim Duncan and friends. This season, there are some questions with this Spurs team. No one is denying that San Antonio has the talent to win it all, but the loss of some bench depth and the challenge of incorporating LaMarcus Aldridge into the offense are hurdles that Pop will have to overcome this year. Once he inevitably turns the Spurs into a two-way machine, the Coach of the Year debate should be over.


It’s pretty crazy Steve Kerr didn’t win Coach of the Year. In his first season on the sideline, the Warriors had the greatest single-season since Jordan’s Bulls — a two-way terror which blitzed the league. He fell to Mike Budenholzer, who deserves credit for powerfully steering a rudderless ship in Atlanta to a 60-win campaign amid a horrific PR shitstorm. Nevertheless, come playoff time, it was Kerr’s team that finished on top of its conference, while the Hawks got slapped silly by an injury-riddled Cavalier squad.

If Golden State can approach replicating last season’s success, Kerr will walk away with the hardware. Of course, the award could just as easily end up with Gregg Popovich, the God Emcee who presides over the most respected organization in American sports. Popovich could win COY every season, and if he climbs the West with LaMarcus Aldridge in the fold, not one eye will bat if he wins his fourth trophy.

Beyond Kerr and Pop, there exists a dark horse or two. Brad Stevens is the darling coach of the NBA, and if the Celtics can procure a top-tier seed in the East, it would bolster his already sterling reputation. Alvin Gentry is taking over the Pelicans and inheriting one of the greatest basketball specimens ever to fall from the skies. If he and assistant coach Darren Erman unlock Anthony Davis and the strangely conceived Pelicans, Gentry will garner plenty of acclaim.


Coach Of The Year:
Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors

To me, the answer to this question comes down to two things: 1) Can the Atlanta Hawks finish as a top-two team in the Eastern Conference again? 2) Who will have the best record in the West?

My answers: No, and either Golden State or San Antonio. As much as I think the Spurs had a great offseason and are about as good as anyone in the league, there’s one team better than them, and everyone else.

As I stated in my MVP predictions on Monday, I’m not about that “attributing the Warriors’ dominance to luck” life, and until I see someone stop them, I’m under the impression that the Warriors are the toast of the league. I’m sorry, but we’re talking about a team that had the second best offense and the best defense in the league, that didn’t really lose much (sorry David Lee) this offseason, and boasts the reigning league MVP.

After earning so many accolades last season, Stephen Curry can be legitimately described as the greatest shooter in league history, and coach Steve Kerr has figured out how to get the most out of him and everyone else on this roster. The Dubs do everything at an incredibly high level, and Kerr’s the catalyst behind it all.


Coach of the Year is my least favorite award. The media is picking something when they have very little insight on what’s actually happening behind the scenes. I have no idea how to value what a coach does or doesn’t do — it’s all guesswork. With that out the way, lets make some picks!

I like Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr to win the honor. One of the hardest accomplishments to do in sports is stack back-to-back historic seasons. If the Warriors play close to last year’s level, it will be an outstanding accomplishment worth being named the top coach in the NBA.

As the runner-up I’m going with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Billy Donovan. The Oklahoma City offense is going to look more fluid than it did under Scott Brooks, and he is going to garner much of the credit. The Thunder should see a pretty significant jump in win total from last season (45) with better injury luck. Rounding out my top three is San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. Pop is the best head coach in the league, and it can be argued he should just win the award every season. Not having him in the top three would make me look pretty stupid.


The odds-on favorite here should be Steve Kerr, not just because the Warriors are one of two teams with a great chance of winning 60 (or more) games — Cleveland being the other — but because a close race should put Kerr in a position to benefit. Last year, he didn’t get the benefit of the doubt in the two-man competition with Mike Budenholzer. If Kerr and one other coach are involved in another photo finish, expect enough voters to lean in Kerr’s direction this time.

Gregg Popovich is obviously in contention every season, and if the Spurs fluidly put all their promising parts together to great effect, Pop will naturally be at the head of the class once again.

It’s the under-the-radar candidates which intrigue me the most.

If you were to ask me, “Which non-Kerr, non-Pop coach has the biggest opportunity to steal this award in 2016, who would it be?”, I would say Jason Kidd of the Milwaukee Bucks. If Jabari Parker can stay healthy this season and — after being able to simply observe the NBA game from a distance last season — show that he was paying attention, the Bucks could be the No. 3 seed in the East. That might get Kidd the award if Golden State doesn’t hit 60 wins.

You could also see Erik Spoelstra make a run at the award if he finds a way to make the Miami Heat’s bench provide enough relief to a star-studded starting five.

In the West, Alvin Gentry — with all his experience as an offense-first coach — could become the right coach at the right time for Anthony Davis. If Gentry can make the New Orleans Pelicans a far more dynamic offensive team, the Big Easy could get a No. 4 or 5 seed in a loaded Western Conference.

Kerr and Pop are the natural favorites here, but they’re hardly the only coaches who could realistically win the award.

Want to find cheap tickets on your phone? Download TiqIQ’s app now for an instant discount on all events: http://tiqiq.us/BloguinTIQIQ

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |