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When should you vote for Coach of the Year?

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Mike Brown - 55 first place votes
Glenn ‘Doc' Rivers - 1 first place vote

Brown garnered 355 total points and the COTY Award 2009. Rivers? 15 total points.

After a critic-answering, head-shakingly good 66 win season, shattering the Cavaliers win record (previous high was 57) with a smothering, stifling defense led by LeBron James, Brown received the trophy in a landslide. Second place went to Houston's steadfast Rick Adelman with 151 points, only 204 points off Brown's winning total.  (The complete voting results follow at the end of the article.)

Would waiting until after the playoffs have changed the outcome? Should it have?

Let's just say that I'm sure that the voting would have been different. Rick Adelman would have made it much closer if nothing else. Stan Van Gundy would have jumped up. Totals for Rivers and even Rick Carlisle likely would have gone up.

Would you have let Mike Brown off the hook and given him the votes anyway?


Fast Forward

Slightly less than eight weeks and a mere 14 playoff games later, Brown's job was rumored to be in jeopardy. It was rumored that Cavs management was shaken by the way things ended. They were said to believe that Brown was out coached by Van Gundy.

According to Sam Amico in the probasketballnews Danny Ferry denied all such suggestions, calling them 'terrible lies', yet Amico quoted an unnamed source in the same article that further said they were even unhappy with the two wins.

After blowing through eight consecutive playoff wins against the crumbling Detroit Pistons and injured Atlanta Hawks, the Cavaliers came undone in six games against a team that the Celtics led 3-2, and could have beaten in six if they had Leon Powe and Kevin Garnett available. The Celtics finally faded, folded and gave up the ghost, the NBA title rolling free from the death grip of their collectively exhausted hands.

Achieving 62 surprising wins with Garnett out for 25 games and little depth on the bench was more than admirable. Losing Powe after 2 playoff games, getting little help from the subs, but winning 3 of 4 games against the Magic after dropping the critical first game, doesn't really win you anything except perhaps some league wide respect.

But with Cleveland's unexpected stumble coupled with Orlando's rise, and Houston's surprising playoff stand without Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo, and Tracy McGrady, would voting have been different?

I understand this question might be asked in any number of years. For the sake of argument, in light of its playoff surprises, this past year will do.

If you think that the playoffs shouldn't matter...

Since instituting the award in 1963, only one coach has ever won the award without making the playoffs - yep, Doc Rivers with Orlando (41-41). Hubie Brown's 1977-78 Hawks went 41-41 but they made the playoffs. Only one other time in the history of the award was it given to a coach of a team with a record under .500. COTY Red Kerr's 1966-67 Chicago Bulls went 33-48. Believe it or not...they made the playoffs. (Only two of 10 teams didn't. Yeah. I know.)

On the other hand, Brown's masterful turnaround season in Memphis, Rivers' surprising season with undrafted and journeymen players in Orlando would have gone unrewarded... or at least un-awarded.

This season, Scott Skiles did a pretty good job with the Bucks with a poorly dealt hand. Tony Dileo righted the ship in Philly. Larry Brown in Charlotte - ditto. They got nada in voting. With few exceptions, it seems to be about winning. Should the playoffs be a part of that equation?

The Cav team with all the momentum was derailed while the Rockets fought through immense adversity, the Magic answered their critics, and the Celtics played hard for their coach, until they couldn't anymore. Did Jackson deserve better?

How much difference can a coach make? And when should the vote be taken?

How strange would it have been if those rumors about Coach Brown getting fired had any truth to them?

The only time something like that actually happened, that I can remember, was with the Yankees and Player/Manager Yogi Berra in 1963, after the Bronx Bombers lost to St. Louis in 7 games.

Actual Coach of the Year voting results (source)

Coach (Team) Votes: 1st place 2nd place 3rd place Points
Mike Brown (Cavaliers) 55 21 17 355
Rick Adelman (Rockets) 13 24 14 151
Stan Van Gundy (Magic) 13 20 25 150
Nate McMillan (Trail Blazers) 15 14 10 127
George Karl (Nuggets) 11 16 14 117
Jerry Sloan (Jazz) 9 9 6 78
Erik Spoelstra (Heat) 2 8 19 53
Mike Woodson (Hawks) 1 3 3 17
Phil Jackson (Lakers) 1 3 3 17
Doc Rivers (Celtics) 1 2 4 15
Vinny Del Negro (Bulls) 1 1 1 9
Larry Brown (Bobcats) - 1 3 6
Scott Skiles (Bucks) - - 1 1
Tony DiLeo (Sixers) - - 1 1
Rick Carlisle (Mavericks) - - 1 1